March 19, 2019 1:04 pm
Updated: March 19, 2019 9:14 pm

Firefighters battle blaze at historic Wetaskiwin hotel

WATCH ABOVE: Firefighters in Wetaskiwin continue to battle a blaze at a historic hotel. Fletcher Kent reports.

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Fire crews from three separate departments were on scene of a blaze at a historic hotel in Wetaskiwin Tuesday morning.

A fire broke out at the Rose Country Inn at around 6:30 a.m.

Crews from the Wetaskiwin, Camrose and Millet fire departments were battling the fire Tuesday morning. Wetaskiwin RCMP were also on scene.

“There was a lot of heavy heat and smoke coming from the floor area, so we figured that there was nothing salvageable at this time due to all the smoke and heat,” said deputy fire chief Alex Plant.

“We pulled back and went to a defensive mode, so we’re just protecting the surrounding structures.”

Two of the building’s walls collapsed at around 7:30 a.m., with area residents describing it as a loud, thunderous crash.

“There were flames everywhere and then suddenly, you just heard this rumble. And then the whole side just started sliding down,” Deborah Johnston said.

Fire crews said because the hotel is made up of dry, heavy timber, it’s likely the fire will burn for upwards of two days.

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The cause of the fire is not yet known. There are people who live in the hotel, but fire crews swept the building and everyone made it out safely. RCMP said no injuries were reported. Fire crews rescued a cat and a dog from the hotel.

READ MORE: 95-year-old Daysland Hotel destroyed by overnight fire: ‘It’s a tragic loss’

The building opened as a hotel in 1904. It closed during prohibition in 1906, according to the City of Wetaskiwin Archives. It reopened in 1918 as a hospital for veterans after the First World War.

The main community hospital moved into the building in 1922 and it served as Wetaskiwin’s only hospital until 1932.

“It broke my heart,” Kelsey LeClair said of watching the building burn. She used to live and work at the hotel.

“I did have some good times here and I did meet some wonderful people… It was just heartbreaking just thinking about the memories.”

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, the fire was contained to the hotel building.

“The structure is a loss, we understand that,” Plant said. “We want to preserve as much of it as we can. If we can get an old plaque off the side of it, that would be even more of a bonus.”

Wetaskiwin is located about 70 kilometres south of Edmonton.

More to come…

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