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Arson causes straw bale fire at Elie

“I knew this was going to happen some time.”

– RCMP spokesperson

A fire which destroyed some 200 straw bales at the site of the former Dow BioProducts plant at Elie last week was deliberately set.

The Manitoba Fire Commissioner’s office has ruled arson as the cause of the fire and is investigating, a provincial spokesperson said.

A security guard at the plant reported the fire at about 9:30 p. m. Jan. 22. Officials said the fire broke out about five rows back among the piles of straw bales and spread because of high winds.

The Rural Municipality of Cartier fire department attended, broke open the bales with a front-end loader and used a snowblower to pour snow on the fire.

There were no injuries. RCMP are investigating.

“I knew this was going to happen

some time,” a spokesperson for the Headingley RCMP detachment said.

The bales have sat unused along the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway 35 km west of Winnipeg since the plant was shut down in December 2005.

The facility opened in 1998 under the name Isobord Enterprises. It used German technology to press heated resin and crushed cereal straw supplied by local farmers into particle board for use in kitchen cabinets and furniture.

Isobord went into receivership

in February 2001. Dow Pipeline Ltd., a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Canada, purchased the plant in May 2001. It has been idle since ceasing operation.

Farmers belonging to a straw producers’ co-op ended up writing off nearly $1 million in receivables after Isobord went bankrupt.

Dow sought a buyer for the plant but finally gave up and decided in December 2007 to sell the press board and other machinery. The company has a decommissioning agreement with the provincial government to clean up the site and dispose of the piles of deteriorating straw bales.

Roland Rasmussen, reeve of the R. M. of Cartier, said Dow had leased the land to a private concern for cleanup. But the arrangement fell through and the company hopes to commence cleanup later this year, Rasmussen said.

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