Flames lit up the night sky in a small town southeast of Edmonton, where an overnight fire destroyed a 95-year-old hotel and bar.
The Daysland Hotel and Liquor Store, as well as the attached Doghouse Tavern, burned down early Tuesday morning.
Kim Cannady, the region’s emergency services co-ordinator, said fire crews were called to the site at around 9 p.m. Monday by a person who was inside the building and noticed smoke.
Members of the Daysland Fire Department, as well as crews from Killam and Flagstaff County, fought the fire.
“They did make a couple of pushes inside the building just to see if we could find the seat of the fire but we couldn’t manage. There was too much smoke, and we just couldn’t get in to where we needed to,” Cannady said.
“It got to the point where it was just too dangerous; we had to back out and protect the exposures.”
Cannady said fire crews were also battling freezing temperatures and strong winds.
Mayor Ed Kusalik said he first spotted the blaze on the way back from an emergency fire services meeting at the county office, adding it was “ironic.”
He drove into town shortly after 9 p.m. to see flashing lights at the hotel but at first thought it was an ambulance because no smoke was visible.
It wasn’t until he woke up at 1 a.m. and saw a glow in the sky that he knew something had happened.
“I was aghast,” Kusalik said. “The hotel was an intricate part of our little town. It was built in 1924 and it was a hub of social events.”
Wyatt O’Donnell, a volunteer firefighter from the nearby town of Rosalind, said he headed over to Daysland to see if he could be of help.
O’Donnell said it was a difficult fire to contain due to the cold temperature. Thankfully, there were hydrants nearby, he said, and O’Donnell credits those hydrants with saving the surrounding buildings, including a credit union on one side and a theatre on the other.
Kusalik said the theatre is the hub of entertainment in the town and is glad it was saved.
“Where can you go for $4 and have a bag of popcorn for $2? You tell me and I’ll go. Daysland Art Theatre is one of the best things for our town.”
The hotel, however, was gutted. The fire was large with shooting flames and smoke billowing into the air.
“It’s a tragic loss. It’s going to be felt throughout this town,” Kusalik said.
The mayor thanked local residents for coming out to help serve the firefighters hot coffee and thanked the nearby Bumper-to-Bumper store for opening up as a warming centre.
“The need to help out in a small town, it’s just a given. You just do it,” Bumper-to-Bumper owner Todd Carriere said, adding other residents brought sandwiches and muffins for the crews.
“I tried to help them out with some lights in the back and I opened up the back of my shop for them for as long as they needed it.”
The cause is not known. Everyone made it out of the building safely.
While the hotel is gone, the town still has a motel.
Daysland is about 120 kilometres southeast of Edmonton and as of the 2016 federal census, was home to 824 people.