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PRT Nursery fire remains under investigation — RDCK

The thick plumes of black smoke from the PRT fire Thursday forced the RDCK to issue an Evacuation Alert – Shelter in Place for the vicinity of Harrop, Proctor and Balfour. — Photo courtesy Harrop Proctor Community Facebook Page

Regional District of Central Kootenay Regional Fire Chief Nora Hannon said investigators continue to probe a fire that caused extensive damage to a pair of buildings and a neighbour’s shed Thursday afternoon at the PRT Nursery in Harrop.

“The cause of the fire remains under investigation,” Hannon told The Nelson Daily Friday.

“We’re still investigating to determine the damage to the two structures lost at PRT and the outbuilding at the neighbouring property,” Hannon added.

Hannon said calls began coming in at approximately 1:50 p.m. of a fire at PRT Nursery in Harrop.

Balfour/Harrop Fire Department was first on scene and was able to get equipment to the east side of the fire before live power lines went down across the secondary road between Harrop and Proctor.

Other fire departments from North Shore, Beasley Fire Rescue, Crescent Valley and Kaslo also responded.

However, those firefighters were unable to assist Balfour/Harrop until Nelson Hydro crews arrived to de-energize the downed lines across the secondary highway between Harrop and Proctor.

Hannon said there was lots of fuel located in the area with a large quantity of Styrofoam that burned causing large plumes of black smoke that could be seen from Longbeach to Kokanee Park on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

“The fire spread to neighbouring properties, but crews worked hard and did an exceptional job to save the neighbouring home,” Hannon said.

Hannon said a total of 40 firefighters spent most of the afternoon battling the blaze.

The RDCK firefighters received assistance from two BC Wildfire initial attack crews as well as two helicopters that spent up to three to four hours dropping water on the fire to stop the blaze from spreading into the adjacent forest.

Hannon said the fire originated in a building on the east end of the PRT nursery compound.

In all two buildings, one a chemical storage building and the other with machinery stored inside were lost along with an outbuilding at the neighbouring property.

Hannon said fire crews spent most of the evening at PRT nursery dealing with any hotspots, leaving the scene just before midnight.

RCMP also attended the fire scene as well as Ministry of Transportation staff, who closed the secondary road on the south side of Kootenay Lake to traffic during the afternoon when the fire was most dangerous.

The road was re-opened in the early evening to local traffic.

During the peak of the fire, the RDCK issued an Evacuation Alert – Shelter in Place for the vicinity of Harrop, Proctor and Balfour due to the risk of potentially toxic smoke.

The Evacuation Alert – Shelter in Place was rescinded in the early evening hours of Thursday.

Harrop is approximately 27 kilometers north of Nelson and four kilometers south of Proctor across a cable ferry.

The PRT Harrop nursery, which employs approximately 50 people when fully operational during the summer months, grows all commercial tree species planted in Canada and Western United State and offers a full range of standard seedlings and related nursery services.