Former M.D. councillor loses shop, vehicles in fire

Leader staff

Nobody was hurt in a fire that destroyed the shop of Flatbush couple Robert and Jean Esau on Jan. 3. But not much was salvageable, the fire having gotten too well established by the time the fire department arrived.

According to regional fire chief Alex Pavcek, the call came in at around 3:30 p.m. on that Monday. The Flatbush station responded quickest, but “unfortunately, the fire was well-seated, and we had to do a defensive attack.”

Crews from Westlock County, Smith and Slave Lake also responded; their timing was hindered by bad road conditions, Pavcek said.

At the same time of the fire, crews from Widewater and Slave Lake were responding to incidents on highways north of Slave Lake.

“It was chaotic yesterday,” said M.D. reeve Murray Kerik, commenting a day later.

Pavcek said the cause of the fire is under investigation, but “we do not feel it suspicious at this time.”

Robert Esau says he has no idea what caused the fire. He was about to go out to the shop that afternoon to get some bearings for the furnace fan in the house, when he looked out the window and saw flames shooting out the windows and roof of the 40 x 60-foot structure.

“You couldn’t get near the shop,” he says.

Esau praises the local volunteer fire crew for its quick response, and for what it did to make sure nothing else got damaged. Helping, he says, was the fact the roof fell in before the 16-foot walls. They stood for a while, acting as a sort of chimney, directing the heat upward.

As to what was lost, “the big stuff,” Esau says, included two pickup trucks, a tractor and two side-by-side ATVs. Esau say it was “a very well-equipped shop.” Two examples: an extensive supply of bearings and “a bolt bin that would compete with anything in Slave Lake or Westlock.”

It was so hot in the shop during the fire, Esau says, that a welding table made of half-inch steel ended up with a bow in it.

The Esau farm is located about five kilometres south of Flatbush. Robert Esau served three terms on M.D. of Lesser Slave River council, up to the Oct. 2021 election.

What’s left of the Esau tractor, a couple of days after the shop it was in burned to the ground.
Photo courtesy of Robert Esau

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