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‘It’s just devastating’: fire engulfs High River seniors’ lodge

WATCH ABOVE: Two seniors lodges being rebuilt after incurring severe flood damage two-and-a-half years ago were ravaged by fire Tuesday morning. David Boushy reports.

HIGH RIVER, Alta. – Emergency crews from several communities in southern Alberta responded to a fire at a High River seniors’ lodge on Tuesday.

The blaze at Medicine Tree Manor broke out just after 5 a.m.

Firefighters from High River, Blackie, Okotoks and Black Diamond rushed to the scene.

The building was vacant and under construction at the time of the fire; the Town of High River said no injuries were reported.

“The flames were about 100/150 feet in the air,” said nearby resident James Romaniuk. “It’s just a shame.”

The building was badly damaged by the blaze and the nearby Soderberg House was evacuated as a precaution.

The fire forced the town to activate its emergency operations centre.

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Beth Birch worked at Medicine Tree Manor 14 years ago, and said the fire has dealt a big blow to the southern Alberta town.

“It’s just devastating for the town of High River,” Birch said.

Residents were asked to avoid the area as crews battled the fast-moving blaze.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

AHS issues Air Quality Advisory for High River following fire

On Tuesday, Alberta Health Services (AHS) issued a precautionary air quality advisory for High River due to smoky conditions caused by the fire at Medicine Tree Manor.

Health officials warned those living or travelling in the town to be aware of potential health concerns.

“Although the current air conditions do not typically cause health concerns in most healthy individuals, if these conditions become more severe, even healthy individuals may experience temporary irritation of eyes and throat, and possibly shortness of breath,” said AHS in a news release.

The advisory will be in effect until further notice.

AHS suggested those with respiratory conditions (such as COPD and asthma) and individuals with existing cardiovascular conditions (such as angina, previous heart attack and congestive heart failure) may notice a worsening of symptoms due to the current air conditions.

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“These individuals should monitor for worsening of symptoms and take the precautions routinely recommended by their physicians if a worsening of symptoms occurs,” added AHS.

Individuals experiencing symptoms can call Health Link by dialing 811.

For more information on air quality levels throughout Alberta visit the Alberta Environment and Parks Website.

A fire engulfs Medicine Tree Manor in High River on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
A fire engulfs Medicine Tree Manor in High River on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. Courtesy Lorne Ball
A fire engulfs Medicine Tree Manor in High River on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
A fire engulfs Medicine Tree Manor in High River on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. Courtesy Lorne Ball
A fire engulfs Medicine Tree Manor in High River on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.
A fire engulfs Medicine Tree Manor in High River on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. Courtesy Lorne Ball

Medicine Tree Manor was being rebuilt following flood damage

Medicine Tree Manor, originally built in 1960, was badly damaged by flooding in June 2013.

The province announced plans to demolish and rebuild the 52-unit lodge in April 2014, replacing it with 40 larger-sized lodge units.

Construction began in the fall of 2014 with an anticipated completion date of 2017.

The estimated cost for the project when it was announced was $9.9 million.

Medicine Tree Manor shares its location with The Westwinds Lodge (32 units) and The Parkside at Medicine Tree Manor (28 units).

All three lodges were flooded in June 2013, displacing 112 residents.

The province said in 2014 that displaced seniors would be supported in other seniors’ facilities in the region or in government-supplied interim housing during the rebuild of Medicine Tree Manor.

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– With files from Doug Vaessen

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