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Towns Rebuilding After Fire Losses

“We’re building a new fire hall.”

– glenboro mayor bill shackel

They lost rinks, churches, and heritage sites to fires, but new buildings are rising, and spokespersons in Manitoba communities say they can even see a “silver lining” in it all now.

Between 2006 and 2008 several rural communities lost key public buildings to fires – some deliberately set.

On April 4 last year, for example, Glenboro residents woke up to learn their 104-year-old historic water tower had burned to the ground in a suspected arson.

But they’re turning that loss into a gain for the community now, says village Mayor Bill Shackel, who notes the irony in what Glenboro’s decided to build with the insurance money.

“We’re building a new fire hall,” he said. Ratepayers generally agreed rebuilding an historic site wasn’t really practical, while they did need a new fire hall.

“We’re still going to miss it (the water tower),” he said. “But there will be memorabilia put up at the fire hall and where the old water tower was, we’re making a little park there.”

The congregation of the United Church of Minnedosa, meanwhile, was expected to vote this past weekend on a decision to rebuild its church, destroyed by arson in 2006.

The proposed design would leave the congregation with no mortgage to service, and produce a building very well suited to serve its community for decades to come, rebuilding chair Wilf Taylor said.

If the decision is “yes,” the congregation hopes to be worshipping there again in early 2010, Taylor said, adding that there’s now a sense of excitement in the community.

“We lost such a beautiful building. But once you get over that, we are moving forward.”

“PULLED TOGETHER”

In Cartwright, meanwhile, a brand new rink is already rebuilt to replace the 50-year-old one they lost in an electrical fire in October 2007. “It’s all worked out quite well,” said Cartwright Mayor Bruce Leadbeater. There was never any real question in the small town of whether to rebuild.

“Everyone wanted it rebuilt,” he said. “And the community has certainly pulled together.”

When hockey season starts this fall, it will be in a building with a waiting room twice the original’s size, much better dressing rooms and a full regulation ice surface, he said. The new building is more energy efficient too.

The town knew the old building’s useful life was running out before the fire, so it’s worked out for the best, Leadbeater said. “In the near future we couldn’t have afforded to build even what we had.”

Winnipegosis is also now reconstructing its rink, lost to a fire of unknown origin in 2007. The community expects by this summer to have its facility rebuilt as well.

In Stonewall, meanwhile, about 30 people are poring over a new design to rebuild the Quarry Park Interpretive Centre, also destroyed by fire in November 2007. Once the new centre is built – by the summer of 2010, the community hopes – it’s expected to even better meet the community’s evolving needs, town CAO Robert Potter said.

The previous Quarry Park centre was built over 20 years ago when Stonewall’s population was much smaller. Construction on the new interpretive centre is expected to begin in fall.

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About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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