By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Fire destroys beekeeping operation

AMITY — A three-alarm fire early Saturday morning caused an estimated $2 million in damage at Van Calcar Apiaries Inc., a McMinnville-based beekeeping business.

Twelve hours later, Nick Van Calcar said he was still trying to comprehend the event, which destroyed not only his long-standing business, but his adjacent home as well.

“It’s a pretty big blow,” he said. “I lost a lot of money, and a lot of stuff I have put a lot of work into over the last 13 years.”

Firefighters from multiple agencies responded to the site, at 10930 S.W. River Bend Road, northwest of Amity and west of Whiteson, about 1 a.m.

The blaze was already out of control, so firefighters took a defensive stance, said Amity Fire Chief Bruce Hubbard. He said water to fight the fire had to all be trucked in, another major impediment.

Van Calcar made the first call to 911, triggering a first alarm. A second and third soon followed, bringing in personnel from neighboring agencies in Polk and Yamhill counties.

“I was home at the time,” said Van Calcar, a 1990 McMinnville High School graduate whose parents live in McMinnville. “I woke up to it.

“There was nothing I could do, so I called 911. It was too late by the time they got here. They did a great job, but they had no water.”

Hubbard said nine fire engines and 10 water tenders were dispatched with a complement of 65 firefighters. He said the tenders had to draw water from a million-gallon pond at Mid-Valley Rehabilitation and truck it to the scene, a time-consuming process.

Hubbard said it was one of the largest blazes to erupt in the Yamhill Valley in recent years.

Law enforcement personnel said the smoke and flames were visible from Highway 18 and Durham Lane, at the edge of McMinnville. The glow and smoke could also be seen from just north of the Bayou Golf Club on Highway 99W as well, they said.

Two structures burned, one of more than 9,000 square feet and the other about 8,000 square feet. Van Calcar had been living on the second story of the larger structure, which was connected to the smaller one. They featured wood siding and metal roofs.

It appeared the fire started on a flatbed truck. Hubbard said the extent of the damage may prevent investigators from determining what touched it off.

“I’m still in shock,” Van Calcar said. “I still have my bees, but I lost all the support equipment. I lost extracting equipment, honey bee box cutting equipment and a slew of cut boxes.

“Most importantly, I lost a whole bunch of honey. And I lost equipment for the manufacture of an additional 2,000 colonies that we had not made up yet.”

Van Calcar rented bees to farmers who needed their crops pollinated. He collected, processed and sold the resulting honey.

He employed 15 workers, all of whom are now out of a job. He carried insurance, but said it was not going to make him whole by any means.

The fire also destroyed two electric forklifts and a one-ton flatbed with a tow-behind forklift, Hubbard said. He said some like equipment was salvaged.

Hubbard said he had a lot of empathy for the way Van Calcar was feeling.

“He had built that business up,” the chief said. “When you lose everything, it’s not easy.

“He told me he had lots and lots of buyers. He said he could not scoot it out the door fast enough.”

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