It is no secret wildfires and arsons have been at an all-time high this year in Alberta; however, a local fruit stand did not expect their business to experience an arson firsthand.

Okanagan Fresh Fruit did not anticipate Canada Day festivities to turn into a night of flames in the parking lot near Nutters in north Lethbridge. Nathan Pescetti, an employee of Okanagan Fresh Fruit, shared when he was able to get to the scene and the damage the fire did.

“I showed up to the scene about quarter after nine, 9:30ish. The stand was just burnt straight to the ground. It was rubble. Half the truck was melted,” Pescetti said.

Pescetti was informed by an officer the fire was estimated to have happened around 8:30 p.m. on July 1, Canada Day. Pescetti said he was told by an officer the case of the fire was due to an accident when a few homeless individuals were carrying a cart full of isopropyl or methamphetamine and laptops along with tablets.

“The officer said that they think that when their isopropyl or whatever spilled over onto the tablets and the laptops, and it lit the magnesium and the batteries on fire, and just basically created a mini-bomb and blew up the stand and counted on fire, and just burned straight to the ground.”

It is estimated the amount of damage Okanagan Fresh Fruit occurred was around $11,000 to 13,000. Pescetti noted how they could not open for a day, and he spent all Sunday building up a new fruit stand. Pescetti said the individual who caused the fire has come forth admitting to the damage, and to his knowledge he has not been charged.

“The guy that supposedly did it he came back while we were cleaning it up and admitted to everything. We called the police, and he admitted everything to the police. And he was walking around with bear mace and stuff, and the police let them go. . . .So that was pretty unfortunate.”

Okanagan Fresh Fruit has received a lot of support and condolences for their misfortune through social media. Pescetti said the fruit stand has been parking at the same location for around 40 years, and this is the first time they have experienced this. 

“The most that’s really happened is obviously, knowing that somebody’s been sleeping, they’re leaving their garbage in their trash, we find that, odd needles or whatever. But nothing this crazy. This is definitely the wildest thing that’s happened here.” 

Pescetti said fruit stand business manager Jared Law, also manages two other local fruit stands in the city. Pescetti voiced his concern with the news of the fire and said they are back on their feet.

“Obviously, I was pretty upset because it’s my job. First thing I thought it was, ‘Oh crap, I don’t have a job anymore.’ And it’s gone and lost all this money. But, you know, at the end of the day, we got it all fixed up, and we’re good now. We didn’t really let it impact us that much. We got right back on our feet, built a whole new standard in a day. Cleaned it all up, and now we’re open.”

By Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 07, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta

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