By Connor Lynch
BROOKE-ALVINSTON — Doug Hills was hardly off the plane for his Cuban vacation when his phone went off. A firefighter as well as a beef and crop farmer in Brooke-Alvinston, he has an app that warns him of fire in the area. He checked and, reading the address, said: “Holy crap!” It was his farm.
Inside of 24 hours he was on a plane heading home.
The Feb. 9 blaze on the Lambton County farm consumed a drive shed and the equipment inside. All told, it dealt about $400,000 in damage, though firefighters managed to keep the fire from spreading to a nearby cattle barn.
Hills’ son Jake, whom he farms with, noticed the fire after hearing a bang from the drive shed. Going out to investigate, he noticed the popped tires on the John Deere Gator, as well as the flames leaping from its front and the tires of a nearby Kubota tractor. A firefighter himself, he told his wife to call 911 and grabbed a fire extinguisher. But in less than 20 minutes, the shed was fully engulfed.
The shed had five tractors, a combine, a grain buggy, four wagons, and various other smaller machines and miscellaneous tools inside. It was all insured, Hills said.
Firefighters arrived at around 6:30 p.m. and battled the fire for nearly five hours, said Fire Chief Jeff McArthur. With the shed fully ablaze when they arrived, they focused on saving the nearby cattle barn. An investigation didn’t turn up the cause of the fire, though they often don’t, and McArthur said they don’t consider it suspicious.