Whitehorse Daily Star

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EARLY-MORNING BLAZE - A fire Friday morning at the McCabe Creek Farm destroyed the large woodworking and mechanical shop that has been used by the Yukon Quest for the last 20 years as a dog drop and rest stop. Photo by KIERRA DICK.

'We are going to start over': fire victim

The workshop at the McCabe Creek Farm north of Carmacks - which served every year as a dog drop and rest stop for Yukon Quest mushers - burned to the ground early Friday.

By Chuck Tobin on February 23, 2009

The workshop at the McCabe Creek Farm north of Carmacks - which served every year as a dog drop and rest stop for Yukon Quest mushers - burned to the ground early Friday.

Jerry Kruse could only watch and save what he could as the 1,800-square-foot shop he'd built in 1990 became engulfed in flames.

"I am very grateful there was nobody in the building, that everybody got out," Kruse told the Star this morning from the farm located north of Carmacks, along the Yukon River near Minto Landing.

Just a half-hour before the fire, five of the Yukon Arctic Ultra racers departed to continue their trek along the Yukon Quest trail (see story below).

One of two Ultra officials who'd gotten up to see the racers off ran to the main house at 5:20 a.m. Friday to report the fire after noticing some sparking inside the generator shed, which was attached to the wood working and mechanical shop.

Kruse said by the time he got there the fire was roaring.

With oxygen and acetylene tanks nearby, along with a barrel of diesel fuel, he felt it was best to back out and rescue the tractor parked closest to the shop.

The acetylene tank blew, but not the oxygen tank.

Using the front end loader on the tractor, Kruse buried a large welder located outside next to the shop, to keep it from burning.

Inside was a full complement of woodworking and mechanical tools, including a number of specialized woodworking tools recently left to Kruse by his father.

"The list is big," he said, adding he suspects the value of the lost goods was in excess of $100,000.

"The shop was basically full, because it was winter so we had a lot of stuff stored in there that we normally would not."

The new diesel generator, purchased a year ago, was worth $12,000 alone, he pointed out.

Kruse said there is no fire insurance, as it's not possible to get property insurance when living in a remote area with no organized fire protection.

He was angry at first, sometimes tearful, but realized every time he looked out the window at where the 36 x 50 foot structure stood just four days ago, it didn't matter if he was angry or tearful; it is still gone.

"We are just going to start over," said the 64-year-old, who just filed his application for Canada Pension Plan benefits.

Kruse said he's not sure how the fire started, though he suspects it was in the generator shed.

The two Ultra race officials who notified him reported that minutes earlier, the lights in the workshop had briefly flickered, he said.

The Kruse family began homesteading along McCabe Creek in 1989, after selling the Midway Lodge nestled along the North Klondike Highway beside McCabe Creek, at the beginning of the long straight stretch through the Minto Landing flats.

The farm has served as a rest stop for Quest mushers for some 20 years.

This year's field of mushers passed through just last week, ahead of the Arctic Ultra racers.

" ... McCabe Creek is well-known for the hospitality and generosity of the Kruse family and for the workshop that is cleared out to make room to house the mushers and veterinarians during their stay," reads a Quest press release issued over the weekend.

Quest organizers are inviting anyone with expressions or contributions of support to send them through the local office on First Avenue.

CKRW is also advertising that support for the Kruse family can be directed through the Whitehorse Quest office.

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