300 canoes destroyed in Brabant fire; arson suspected

Fire hose (Photo: Vitaliy Ragulin / Wikimedia Commons)Fire hose (Photo: Vitaliy Ragulin / Wikimedia Commons)

Some 300 canoes were destroyed in a fire at canoe rental company Rofra in Valkenswaard during the early hours of Tuesday morning. The police and fire department suspect arson. "There is someone who is really angry at me", Rofra owner Michel Geenen said to newspaper AD.

The fire at the company on Molenstraat started just after midnight. The fire brigade responded with two fire trucks and two water tanks. Firefighters managed to get the fire under control within 30 minutes, but not fast enough to save any of the canoes.

The canoes stood outside on trailers, and were not insured. Hundreds of thousands of euros in damages were caused, according to Geenen's first estimates. According to the man, an attack was committed on his company. Canoes are not easy to set on fire, he said to AD. "Just before the peak season. This is someone who really wants to hurt us." The summer months are Rofra's busiest season, with day trippers and holidaymakers renting canoes to cross the Dommel.

This is not the first time that Rofra is targeted. In May last year, a dozen canoes went up in flames. And in 2017 a company bus' windows were smashed and tires were punctured. 

Geenen doesn't have any enemies that he is aware of. "I really don't know, I really didn't see this coming, despite the earlier arson. This is of a different order. Are people jealous? Or are they opponents of the expansion plans."

Geenen is working on plans to open a recreational family park, with attractions and restaurants and maybe also a lookout tower and botanical garden. The Valkenswaard mayor and aldermen were scheduled to see him on Tuesday to discuss the theme park plans, according to AD.