The people of St. Jean continue to feel the effects of a massive devastating fire that destroyed the former Manitoba Pool grain elevator in the community, nearly a week after the blaze broke out. 

"We still can smell some of the burned stuff. The R.M. Foreman lined up sweepers to clean off the streets ASAP. Sunday/Monday morning they finished cleaning everything up. We had a little rain Wednesday and all the soot from the roofs has come down the eavestroughs, so you can see all the soot remaining on the fire hall and the houses nearby," explained Fire Chief Eugene Fillion, noting the site continues to smolder. 

"But (there's) no hot spots in there, so we're leaving it as-is. We have two or three people checking on it daily - morning, afternoon and evening," he said. 

A high hoe was brought in to dismantle the elevator and clean up the debris as fire fighters worked to tamper the mammoth flames which erupted overnight on Friday. Fillion says the clean-up effort began Saturday afternoon. 

"We got two high-hoes and five trucks to start cleaning up and hauling it to a remote area just south of St. Jean so we could store the produce there until we decided what to do with it."

That work continued until Monday night, two days after the fire began. 

Over 80 fire fighters from 8 departments across the region were called in to help battle the blaze, bringing extra equipment like ladder trucks from Morris, Altona and Winkler. Fillion says having mutual aid agreements like this in place means a lot to smaller fire departments like his. 

"Not everybody has aerial ladders. That costs about two million dollars. Our tax base doesn't allow us to afford a ladder," he said. 

Water tankers were also brought in from Dominion City, Altona, Winkler and Morden. 

"The supply for that amount of water we needed, we couldn't get out of our hydrants because they're limited. All-in-all, it turned out pretty good and we couldn't have asked for better help," added Fillion. 

Not only did fire fighters have to tackle the actual blaze, but they also had to focus on saving nearby homes and the neighbouring fire hall. Residents were evacuated in the middle of night, not knowing if they'd return to their homes still standing, said Fillion. In the end, nobody was hurt but some property needs to be repaired or replaced. 

"We had ideal conditions. We were lucky. It could have gone real bad real fast," explained Fillion. "Three weeks prior was drier, and the wind was higher. We had ideal conditions, so it (the fire) didn't spread out so far."

The Department took to social media earlier this week to thank all those who stepped up during the incident, and afterwards, including R.M. public works staff and regular community members. 

"Curtis, the R.M. Foreman, was on the water supply getting pumps ready and everything. So, the RM employees helped a lot to get everything behind the scenes ready to go and get everything supplied. Even the bystanders were willing to bring us food to the hall to feed the firefighters and keep them going over the night. So, kudos to everybody that give us a hand and made that our jobs that much easier," said Fillion.


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