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Fire puts employees out of work

Chad and Alicia

When the fire broke out early this morning at Northern Lite Mfg. Ltd., it not only destroyed the building and almost everything inside, it also put about 25 employees out of work.

The company builds fiberglass truck campers, and was just about to start a new contract with CanaDream RV rentals for 25-75 units built at the Kelowna location over the next few months.

Blaine Ans is a senior member of the team, he arrived at work around 4:30 this morning.

“I could see the smoke over the old Marshall Feed Lot and turned to my right a little bit and could see the smoke billowing up and I could smell the fiberglass burning. I knew it was work,” he says from his home.

“Fiberglass has a very distinct smell to it when it’s burning, so I knew. Cars were parked all over the place where they’re not normally parked, and fire trucks, police cars. I just pulled my phone out, called the wife and said ‘I don’t have a job anymore’, and then started taking a few pictures.”

By the time he arrived at the scene, the building was already destroyed – along with everything in it.

There were four camper molds inside the shop, both bottoms and tops to the models built at the warehouse. Ans estimates those molds are valued at around $80,000. Those losses are in addition to all of the equipment and the supplies believed to have been lost in the fire, like fiberglass chopper guns, gel coat guns, supplies, personal items and between 10-12 units that were in various stages of completion. The top line units can be worth as much as $35,000 each.

“With 25 people working there and everybody working on them, I couldn’t even guess at the man hours for each one,” says Ans.

There were also approximately 8 finished camper units sitting outside the shop that are believed to have been saved. The units were waiting to be shipped east, but due to the weather were being stored at the warehouse.

With the building expected to be a complete loss, management is now scrambling to find a new location to set up shop in order to keep the CanaDream contract.

“We did 50 units for them last year, and this year we were going to start out with 25 units and could go as high as 75 units to start next week. This is a pretty heavy blow,” says Ans.  

With a slight smile, he adds that Thursday is payday and hopes that everyone’s files were not destroyed in the fire as well. He laughs while explaining that his boss had to ask for his phone number outside the fire this morning because all of the employee records were destroyed.

But he is staying optimistic that things will work out sooner than later.

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