Devinder Maan and her family were awakened in the early-morning hours of July 14 with a horrifying phone call from a neighbour.
“Your barn is on fire!” shouted the neighbour, who could see the flames shooting into the sky from the Maan Farms property at the corner of Vye and McKenzie roads in southeast Abbotsford.
The Maans live about a seven-minute drive from their business and, as they rushed along Vye Road, they too could see the flames from a distance, shooting as high as 60 feet at some points.
It was a crushing blow for a family – also including Devinder’s husband, Kris, and their four grown children – who had invested so much time and sweat into developing their dream business.
Devinder felt like her world had been turned upside-down.
The fire, which police later confirmed had been deliberately set, destroyed the property’s two-storey building, which had been constructed only two years ago and consisted of 7,000 square feet on each level.
The building, fashioned as a big red barn, housed the farm’s offices, winery, “country kitchen,” and main store, where items such as fresh produce, home-style jams and ice cream were sold.
The top floor of the building took the brunt of the fire damage, but smoke and water damage to the bottom floor made the building – and its supplies – unsalvageable.
This included three truckloads of berries that had been stored in coolers but could no longer be sold.
No one was injured in the blaze, and all the animals in the petting zoo were safe.
Devinder said that as soon as news of the fire got out in the community, the family was buoyed by the support from regular customers and others who expressed their dismay and offered encouragement.
Many of these people had come to know the Maans over the 36 years they have been operating their farm, which opened to the public in 1982, followed by a petting zoo in 2009 and the main building in 2012.
Just two days after the fire, the Maans began selling produce from a road-side stand on the property and re-opened their U-pick services.
“It has been overwhelming … People have cried for us, sending emails, bringing flowers … They are the reason we set up two days after the fire,” Devinder said.
She said they have been “working around the clock to bring everything back.” The wreckage from the fire took a couple of weeks to clean up enough for a two-tent covered area to be set up to sell the farm’s produce.
Just last Friday, an expanded covered area – consisting of four tents – opened to the public, and the petting zoo and corn maze re-opened.
A temporary structure is expected to open in mid-August to house the market, winery and some food sales, with plans for a newly built permanent building to open next spring.
Devinder said the family has no idea who would want to target their business. Police are continuing to investigate the arson, but there have not yet been any arrests or charges.
Devinder said although this has been a setback, the family is staying positive and forging ahead.
“We’re strong enough to move forward, and we know the community is behind us,” she said.
The farm is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit maanfarms.com.
One of the businesses impacted by the Maan Farms fire was a catering company called Design by Desire Catering and Food Services, operated by Marcel Pheiffer.
Pheiffer used catering space at the farm, but as of July 30, has moved his kitchen space to the Abbotsford Centre for August. The centre was able to provide the space because it has fewer events operating there during the summer.
Pheiifer said on his Facebook page said that his thoughts and support are with the Maan Farms team as they rebuild and he hopes to continue his collaborations with them in the future.
Photo below shows the damage to the main building on the Maan Farms property after an arson on July 14.