Replacement for Cariboo city landmark goes up in flames in fire that also destroys creator's studio

·2 min read
The cow boss statue sculpted by B.C. wood carver Ken Sheen was ruined in a studio fire last Friday. The woodwork was destined to replace Sheen's original statue overlooking the stampede grounds in Williams Lake, B.C. (Ken Sheen - image credit)
The cow boss statue sculpted by B.C. wood carver Ken Sheen was ruined in a studio fire last Friday. The woodwork was destined to replace Sheen's original statue overlooking the stampede grounds in Williams Lake, B.C. (Ken Sheen - image credit)

A wood carving destined to overlook the Williams Lake Stampede grounds was destroyed in a fire that ripped through the creator's studio last Friday.

The cedar cow boss statue, a replacement for the 15-year-old original that collapsed due to rot, was accidentally set ablaze by the wood stove that carver Ken Sheen uses to burn off sawdust in his studio located off Highway 97 near McLeese Lake.

The highway was reduced to single-lane traffic for two hours as a result of the fire.

The statue was charred along with Sheen's carving tools and a number of other wood sculptures.

Over the years, Sheen has been hired by Williams Lake to create wood sculptures that are displayed across the city, including the Heart of a Champion located at the intersection of two local highways.

Sheen's wood works are also displayed in Quesnel and 100 Mile House.

The carver says he was in shock when he discovered fire had spread from his sawdust burner to the entire studio after he left it to go to his house and check his computer.

Fire at Ken Sheen's studio near the McLeese Lake.
Fire at Ken Sheen's studio near the McLeese Lake.(Marlene Pegg)

"I could hear [the fire] sounded like gunshots going off," Sheen said Monday to Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "My dogs were barking outside … I finally went out to see what they were barking about and there was a huge flame. It must have been 60 feet or 80 feet tall."

"It was intense and everything was on fire," he said. "It was so intense you couldn't get anywhere near that."

Sheen says he lost not only several months of work carving the cow boss statue but also chainsaws and many other specialized sculpting tools estimated to be worth about $7,000.

"It burned up thousands and thousands of dollars worth of tools that I've been collecting over 20 years," he said. "Everything is gone."

A carved wooden eagle side table was one of many artworks destroyed by the fire in Ken Sheen's studio last Friday.
A carved wooden eagle side table was one of many artworks destroyed by the fire in Ken Sheen's studio last Friday. (Ken Sheen)

Williams Lake Coun. Scott Nelson says the entire council feels for Sheen and the losses he's sustained.

"Our hearts are with Ken Sheen and the family," Nelson said. "He's certainly got the entrepreneurial spirit of the Cariboo inside of him."

Sheen says the community helped clean up the mess and is holding a fundraiser to help him get back to work.

"I'm just trying to figure out what to do …I'm trying to get my ducks in a row," he said.

Tap the link below to hear Ken Sheen's interview on Daybreak Kamloops: