Football equipment that may be salvaged litters the ground in front of the V.I. Raiders football team’s practice facility at Caledonia Park following a fire early Tuesday, July 12. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Fire damages Vancouver Island Raiders practice facility and equipment

Football team’s general manager estimates lost gear was worth tens of thousands of dollars

Nanaimo’s V.I. Raiders football team will need to replace thousands of dollars worth of equipment that was damaged by a fire early Tuesday morning.

Firefighters responded to an alarm at the football team’s practice tower in Caledonia Park at about 7 a.m., July 12. The small blaze damaged the back rear corner of the structure as it burned plywood sheeting under the building’s metal siding and into one of the structure’s three storage bays before crews knocked the fire down.

Josh Williams, the team’s general manager, said he hauled two pickup truck loads of damaged game and training gear to the landfill and estimated the cost of the damage in the tens of thousands. Williams said the team took over the building and field as a training facility at the end of June.

“It started on the outside of the tower, went into the first bay … smoke billowed all up through the inside, smoke damage throughout the whole building,” Williams said. “Slowly and surely we were just kind of getting moved into here.”

Williams said this is the first incident of vandalism or property damage the team has experienced since it moved in, but problems with vandalism and break-ins have been ongoing at the site for a long time.

“It hurts the organization,” he said. “We’re non-profit and it costs a lot of man hours and a lot of money to even just keep it going. We’re trying our best to put on a good program fort the kids and to have something like this happen … it really sucks. You can never get anything done for your organization and take the steps needed to grow and be competitive.”

Williams said signs, field markers and other equipment needed to play games will have to be replaced and will need to be borrowed from other football organizations, if possible, in the meantime.

He said there are other problems at the park; for example, he has to check the field regularly for discarded needles.

“Things like this, they never seem to end down here,” Williams said. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of this facility for quite a few months now and, slowly, we are making steps needed to provide a good and safe atmosphere for these kids … This is a public park and it’s one of the nicest parks in Nanaimo and it just doesn’t get taken care of very well.”

Williams said it will take some time and fundraising to replace the destroyed equipment and make repairs to the building.

READ ALSO: V.I. Raiders football gear stolen from team’s locker room in Nanaimo

READ ALSO: Thefts have football team suffering losses during off-season

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