Rimbey man fears for future of business after truck stolen, set on fire

The headlines are so often taken up by the criminals and their bad deeds. But what about their victims? Who are they? So often we never know.

Bert Pluigers

Bert Pluigers

The headlines are so often taken up by the criminals and their bad deeds. But what about their victims? Who are they? So often we never know.

Lambertus Pluigers is a regular hard-working guy in Rimbey trying to make a living doing odd jobs and running his firewood business.

He could be any citizen in any small town in Alberta, trying to get by like anyone else who is self-employed when times are not the best and jobs are not as abundant, thanks to the continuing decline in the price of crude oil.

Bert, as he is known by folks in town, is the father of seven children and grandfather to 13. He is married to Pauline, who works in a local flower shop. They have a 14-year-old son who lives at home. Pluigers arrived in Rimbey from Truro, N.S., 15 years ago. “I always wanted to go to Alberta.”

Sadly, his business, Bert’s Firewood, which helps him make ends meet, is on hold now because someone stole his 2005 four-by-four long box Ford F250 on Aug. 6. When they were done with it, they set it on fire, completely destroying the truck and the chainsaw and winter clothes in it that he also used for his business.

Two men who aren’t from Rimbey now face more than 40 charges related to this and several other crimes in other Alberta communities.

Whatever happens, Pluigers, 56, will never see a nickle for the truck by way of compensation. He could only afford basic insurance on it so was not covered for either fire or theft. And he certainly can’t just go buy another truck.

“I didn’t think it would happen in Rimbey,” he said.

Pluigers started the firewood business five years ago and built up a customer base of about 60 people. He’s worried that during the time it takes him to save up and get another truck big enough for the job, he will have lost many of those customers to others who also sell and deliver firewood.

He continues to work odd jobs, such as feeding buffalo when needed for a nearby farmer. He’s busier at that in the winter, of course, than in the summer when the animals are grazing.

“It’s less income that’s for sure,” he said on Thursday about the loss of his truck, and he will need to find other things to do to replace that lost income.

Pluigers said he thinks it will take about a year to save up enough money to get another truck.

He’s taking it “as well as you would want to take it I guess. It ticked me off at first, but oh well.

“I just have to do something different until I get another truck.”

But he admits it’s tough to find odd jobs right now. He said he will do whatever it takes to get by. “I’m never scared to do anything.”

A Rimbey businessman, Craig Oliver, has started an online fundraising campaign to help Pluigers get a new truck and chainsaw.

Oliver, who operates a web development company, said he learned of what happened to Pluigers’ truck after he called him to order firewood a couple of days after the truck was stolen.

He has started up a crowdfunding page at GoFundMe.com in the hopes of raising $20,000 so Pluigers can get his firewood business going again. Oliver has also set up a trust account in the name of Lambertus Pluigers at ATB Financial in Rimbey. Donations will be accepted at any branch.

Oliver said that at one time in his life he was helped by others and he wanted to do something to “pay it forward.”

“It’s pretty nice of him,” Pluigers said.

You can find the GoFundMe page on line at gofundme.com/bertsfirewood