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'Disbelief': Barrie Paintball owner vows to rebuild after fire

'I don’t even know what I’ve got left for equipment. All my masks, for example, are all plastic so I’m assuming they’re probably melted,' says Mike Clark
A Dec. 23 fire at Barrie Paintball caused an estimated $700,000 in damages.

Barrie Paintball owner Mike Clark is already making plans to get back in business after a devastating fire at the Essa Township facility Dec. 23.

“We will rebuild. We’re already looking at temporary office trailers to get me back up and running again,” he told BarrieToday on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve already been reaching out to places in Toronto … that have office trailers that I can either rent or buy.”

Clark had just returned from Calgary, where he’d gone for Christmas and his son’s 40th birthday, when the fire happened. 

He was facing great uncertainty about his operation on the 10th Line of Essa Township, just a few minutes west of Mapleview Drive in Barrie.

“I don’t even know what I’ve got left for equipment,” he said. “All my masks, for example, are all plastic so I’m assuming they’re probably melted. My paintball guns themselves are aluminum, so I don’t know if they’re even viable.

“I don’t know what I’ve got left of anything. It’s disbelief, more than anything,” said Clark, who also lost a dog in the fire.

Fire investigators expected to complete the on-scene examination of the structure fire on Thursday.

Last Saturday's blaze caused an estimated $700,000 in damages.

The Office of the Fire Marshall (OFM) was called in to investigate the cause, origin and circumstance of the morning fire at Barrie Paintball.

“The OFM’s Fire Investigation Services (FIS) still remains on-scene completing the on-scene examination. They have an anticipation (of) completion for the on-scene portion today (Thursday),” the OFM's Andre Thurairatnam told BarrieToday.

“That being said, once the on-scene examination concludes, the investigation as a whole will still continue," Thurairatnam added. 

Thurairatnam said that due to the status of this investigation, the OFM was unable to provide any information related to the potential cause of the fire, or other related details about it.

Essa Township firefighters were called to Barrie Paintball at 6:37 a.m. on Dec. 23.

Fire Chief Doug Burgin said the fire involved a vehicle parked outside a building, which has a mix of business and residential uses. He estimated the damage at $700,000 for the building and its contents.

All of the building’s occupants got out safely, Burgin said, and there were no injuries.

Thurairatnam said the damage estimate is not always the only reason for an OFM investigation.

“Although large loss fires of $500,000 or more would qualify as a ‘damage threshold’ for an OFM investigation, it is one of many factors which play in to having the OFM on-scene to investigate any fire incident,” he explained.

The OFM has the duty to investigate the cause, origin and circumstances of any fire, explosion or condition that, in the opinion of the OFM, might have caused fire, explosion, loss of life or damage to property.

Clark said there’s a residence, a beach house down by the pond and the building damaged by fire on the Barrie Paintball property.

“Just one building was affected by the fire, but that building is pivotal to the entire property,” he said.

Paintball is a game in which teams of players simulate a military skirmish, shooting each other with paint pellets that explode on impact, marking the players who have been shot.

On a busy day, usually a Saturday or Sunday, Clark said as many as 100 people use Barrie Paintball.

Innisfil resident Hope Clark, Mike Clark’s granddaughter, has opened a GoFundMe page to raise money for the family who lived above the building there — her aunt Sarah Thompson, Barrie Paintball’s general manager, and cousins Lily and Grace. 

“After the family business caught fire along with the apartment upstairs, Sarah and the girls lost everything including their beloved dog Chevy,” Clark says on her GoFundMe page. “They ran out with only the clothes on their back.

"The money will go towards housing, clothes, beds, school clothes, and all other basic needs they need to survive like shampoos, toothbrushes, etc., so Sarah and the girls are able to get back on their feet and not have to worry about what they don’t have while Sarah tries to rebuild their lives from the bottom up," she says on the page. 

With a goal of $10,000, the GoFundMe campaign had raised $2,675 by Thursday afternoon.

Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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