EXSHAW – Small business owners in Exshaw are rebuilding from the ground up following a destructive structure fire that swallowed thousands of dollars worth of personal property and tools over the weekend.
On Saturday (Nov. 30) at 10 a.m., the charred ruins of a large workshop in the MD of Bighorn was all that remained on Diamond Drive after a lengthy battle that had most of Exshaw's fire department fighting the flames “as high as the trees” in the freezing cold.
The fire ate through businesses occupying the workshop's space, Arctic Fox Woodworking and Fomaclub, as well as destroying the property and tools of Canmore’s Ian Wallace and Jeff Henderson.
Arctic Fox Woodworking owner Zachary Prokosh estimated he lost around $30,000 of his property and Wallace estimated he and Henderson lost around $40,000 combined. Fomaclub did not respond to the Outlook before publication deadline.
“I’m taking it one day at a time; [I’m] devastated, is what I’d say,” Wallace said, a furniture builder of 20 years, who was uninsured.
“It took the wind out of the sails a bit.”
Prokosh also feared his tools and personal property were uninsured, however he said $5,000 is covered with the potential of more pending approval.
“My whole life, an entire lifetime of buying tools and saving is all gone … it’s almost a total loss for me,” said Prokosh, a few hours after the fire was extinguished.
Prokosh said in the loss, however, the community has rallied and is sending support and well wishes his way.
"The power of a small community coming together has been overwhelming," he said on Tuesday (Dec. 3). "The community has been super supportive, other carpenters have offered me their tools and work and it has been humbling, for sure."
At around 3 a.m. on Saturday, Exshaw Fire responded to the community's industrial area, where 13 of its members fought to put the blaze out throughout the morning. The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the source of the ignition hasn’t been confirmed, said Exshaw Fire Chief Rick Lyster.
“Nothing is sticking out about it being suspicious, at least not to me,” Lyster said on Tuesday.
For the people and businesses affected, plans were in the works to rebuild despite challenges they still face."I don’t have shop space anymore … so that's probably one of the hardest parts, where am I going to be able to afford a shop now in the valley where everything's very expensive?" Prokosh said. "As of right now, a friend has offered work until Christmas to keep me on my feet; the hope is to build bigger and better."
A fundraiser is being held at the Canmore Hotel on Dec. 28. For updates on times and more, follow the Arctic Fox Woodworking Facebook page.