Community ‘devastated’ over loss of gathering place destroyed by fire: Prince Albert Grand Council

Click to play video: 'Fire engulfs Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre in Prince Albert, Sask.'
Fire engulfs Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre in Prince Albert, Sask.
Emergency crews attended a fire at the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre in Prince Albert, Sask. on Friday, April 14 – Apr 15, 2022

Prince Albert police and fire crews are responding to a structure fire at the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre.

Prince Albert fire department (PAFD) said the building is a total loss.

As of Friday afternoon, PAFD and police said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Police are asking witnesses who were in the area between 8 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. and may have information about the fire to contact them at 306-953-4222 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

Information can also be submitted anonymously online through Crime Stoppers.

Anyone who lives in the area is asked to check their video cameras for any suspicious activity.

Read more: Prince Albert, Sask., police confirm house explosion death a homicide

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The public is asked to avoid the area in the 2300 block of 9th Avenue West.

Police were dispatched to the area around 8:30 a.m, according to a media release. They did not release further details at the time of publication.

Global News has reached out to the PAFD for more information.

In a statement to Global News, PAFD said they were dispatched to the scene at 8:26 a.m.

There was an extensive fire raging on the east side of the building on arrival, PAFD said.

Two aerial trucks and two engines have worked on a defensive attack against the fire.

PAFD said crews will remain on scene into Friday evening to extinguish the fire.

There were no reported injuries and the fire did not spread to other structures on the property, according to PAFD.

Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) leadership say they are shocked and devastated to hear about the loss.

Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte said he and other leaders are heartbroken to lose “one of the most iconic buildings of the Prince Albert Grand Council.”

“The building is named it after our late Elder and decorated veteran Senator Allan Bird of Montreal Lake Cree Nation. It had the reputation as the main gathering place for many of our community events. But it has been more than a meeting spot. It has also represented the home of our government for our 12-member Nations, and it has been a site where we have honoured many of our leaders over the years,” Hardlotte said.

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PAGC Vice Chief Joseph Tsannie said the loss of the meeting and gathering space will have “a devastating impact” on the community.

“We have relied on it as a central hub for many of our major gatherings. Just yesterday, we used it as a site to distribute 1,500 Easter hampers for families in need. Until we recover and rebuild, the loss of our building will have an impact on future events, including our Fine Arts Festival, sporting events, wakes, round dances, and assemblies,” Tsannie said.

PAGC Vice Chief Christopher Jobb said watching the fire destroy their main meeting place has left everyone in a state of shock.

“People from far and wide have many memories of coming to this building at one time or another. It was first built in 1940 and was part of the residential school for a time period. Since then, many people have come to regard it as a place of healing. We have been proud to be able to host big events, but, into the near future, we will now have to think of different ways to bring our people together,” Jobb said.

PAGC executive thanked PAFD for their work battling the fire, the work of police and the City of Prince Albert.

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