A carving destined to overlook the Stampede Grounds in Williams Lake was destroyed in a structure fire Friday, April 16.
The cowboy carving, a replica of the original cow boss statute, was in the works by Ken Sheen and inside his shop at Castle Cariboo Carving Studio between Williams Lake and Quesnel when a fire ripped through the structure Friday afternoon.
Helping clean up the blackened site on Highway 97 north of McLeese Lake Saturday morning were members of the local Mennonite community.
Lester Barkman, who lives two miles up the road, jumped quickly into action to assist his neighbors by calling up other Mennonites.
“I just felt sorry for them,” Barkman said of Ken and Loraine Sheen.
“He [Ken] lost all of his winter’s work in an hour, so that’s the least we can do is help clean it up.”
Before the fire broke out mid-afternoon Friday, April 16, Ken said he had been tidying out sawdust for which he has a burner.
Well SH*%T! Before and after. This beautiful carving was for the City of William's Lake
He left it for a bit to go into their house and check the computer. By the time he went back out, he said it was a ‘big roaring inferno.’
“By the time the McLeese Lake Volunteer Fire Department came it was already fully engulfed,” Ken said.
“It looked like I poured gasoline on my whole place. It went up so fast.”
Loraine, who is with Northern Health in long-term care, was at work when a neighbor called and told her one of their dogs was at his house and that she ought to get home as there was a fire.
The gallery which the fire burned beside was fortunately saved, although it did sustain some slight damage.
Their nearby house was left unscathed from the fire that Ken said burned three buildings and destroyed his winter inventory of carvings he had been working on, including a sculpture that would have replaced his original cow boss statue that used to stand above the Stampede Grounds in Williams Lake.
“I have a whole bunch of deposit money that I’m going to have to return to people,” Ken added, noting at least 20 years of tools, some from Germany and the United States, are also gone. One tool alone, he said, was worth $6,000.
A crowd fundraiser as of Sunday, April 18 has raised more than $3,500 for Ken, who said he had let their insurance go as it had gotten too expensive to carry because of wildfires within the area and estimates it could take one year to rebuild.
Both he and Loraine are thankful for the help they received during and after the fire in which no lives were lost.
Their other dog, who ran and hid, was later found safe.
“It was the best of a bad scenario—nobody is hurt, we still have our house and we didn’t burn down the neighborhood,” Loraine said, noting if the fire would have occurred in the middle of the night, things could have been much worse.
The fire was brought under control late Friday afternoon. There was one flareup later that evening which was put out by hoses left by the fire department.
“Life happens,” Loraine said. “It’s where you go from there.”
Sheen’s work has found homes throughout B.C. He was also featured on the show Carver Kings.
No word yet on what started the fire.