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Fire damages evaporator at Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm

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CANTON — Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County officials are saying an equipment malfunction was to blame for a small fire Tuesday evening in the sugar house of the agency’s 2043B Route 68 learning farm.

The oil-fired evaporator caught fire, but according to Executive Director Patrick T. Ames, the fire was contained to the base of the equipment.

“We’re not sure what caused it, but it must have been some sort of malfunction,” Mr. Ames said. “The important thing is that no one was hurt and there was no building damage.”

He said the agency is working with its insurance company, and at this point officials are not sure of the extent of the damage.

“We’re not sure if the evaporator is salvageable,” Mr. Ames said.

He said the evaporator was commercial grade, and to replace it could cost upwards of $25,000.

Mr. Ames said it’s unfortunate timing, right at the start of the maple syrup season.

“But it’s life in agriculture, and we’ll deal with it as best we can,” he said. “We’ve already had people in the community reach out to us and ask if there’s anything they can do to help.”

Mr. Ames said the learning farm will either sell its sap to local producers or partner with other producers and pay them to evaporate the sap for them.

Mr. Ames said the maple demonstration tours for school children that are scheduled to start Tuesday will still go ahead as planned.

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