PAEX board to discuss barn replacement and fire safety following May 25 blaze

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald Fire damage from the May 25 fire at a Prince Albert Exhibition Association Cattle Barn.

The Prince Albert Exhibition Association board will meet June 10 to discuss a possible replacement for the cattle barn that burned down on Saturday, but it won’t be the only item up for discussion.

Board president and Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said they’ll also discuss new safety rules to prevent another fire from happening. This is the second year in a row a barn has caught fire at the Exhibition grounds. A horse stable burned down in February 2023.

“That’s our top priority—to make sure that everyone who comes on our property feels safe and is safe,” Dionne said during an interview on Thursday. “We’re going to make some changes, and we’re going to start enforcing those rules to protect our property better.”

Dionne said there were six security guards on site during the Saturday, May 25 fire. He said the board will also review its security operation.

Insurance adjusters inspected the damage on Wednesday, and Dionne said the board wants to wait for their report before they finalize any new rules or future construction plans.

The Exhibition Association returned to profitability in recent years after reporting a $433,000 loss in 2020. In 2023, the board began plans to repair many of the deteriorating buildings on the site, most notably the Octagon Building.

Dionne said insurance costs will help with construction of a new barn, but it’s still a financial setback.

“It’s tough,” Dionne said. “We’ve got so many other repairs because our buildings are old, and they (the two barns) were serving a purpose. To lose them, it was devastating. When they gave me the phone call (on Saturday) to say the barn was on fire I was just devastated….”

“This is the second year in a row we’ve lost something, and it is devastating, especially this time of year when we needed it.”

Dionne said the loss of the cattle barn won’t impact the upcoming Prince Albert Regional Beef Show and Sale. Exhibition staff have already cleaned out and stocked other barns on site with new straw and pens.

The biggest challenge will be the Prince Albert Exhibition (PAEX), but Dionne is confident they can move a few events around to accommodate everyone.

“We are in a mode that we will survive this year without that barn,” he said.

As for a replacement, Dionne said they will definitely rebuild, but board members will discuss what that looks like at the June 10 meeting.

“Our intention is to look to see if we need a barn that big,” he explained. “We’re going to rebuild something, but we don’t know if we need a barn that big. We are insured, so that’s the good part. It’s going to give us an opportunity.”

The Prince Albert Fire Department was called to the scene at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 25 following reports of a structure fire on Exhibition Drive.

Firefighters reported heavy smoke coming from the eaves and roof of the barn upon arrival. The first crew entered through the main door, but had to cease their efforts due to collapsing roof trusses.

Instead, the department removed parts of the building’s exterior to access and extinguish the fire. The department described the building as sustaining “significant structural damage.”

Firefighters also responded to a fire on Exhibition Drive on Friday, May 24. Crews were called to the scene at 10:30 p.m. following reports of a fire by a parked RV trailer.

Fire crews found a small amount of debris burning and extinguished it without any damage to the nearby fence.

@kerr_jas •