Many in Prince Albert are saddened by the loss of one of the city’s’ well-known buildings.
The Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre had been in use for nearly 80 years.
A 24-year-old woman has been charged with arson in relation to the fire at the memorial centre.
On Friday, responders and fire crews fought the flames, but were unable to save the building.
Prince Albert Fire Department Deputy Chief Alex Paul said since Allen Bird was built in the 1940s, the material was old and easily flammable.
The building also was not structurally sound to be prepared for a fire as it was not up to fire code, meaning there was little firefighters could do.
“It was a solid timber construction clad originally with cedar siding and then in later years covered with metal so once that fire got behind the metal siding it was able to spread quite quickly,” said Paul.
The building was owned by the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC).
Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte sent out a release saying, “We are heartbroken to lose one of the most iconic buildings of the c. The building was named 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.”
Vice Chief Christopher Jobb also commented in the news release and said, “Watching this fire destroy our main meeting place leaves us all 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.”
The centre was home to many events according to Prince Albert city councillor Tony Head, who said the loss is devastating.
“There’s many fond memories, you know, over the gathering and some of the healing centres that’s been held there, you know we’ve honoured many individuals through there,” said Head.
“It is a huge loss to our city and definitely you know shocking and devastating to hear the news.”
As well, former mayor and current city councillor Don Cody shared memories of the assemblies held there.
“It was a great place to hear what the Indigenous people were doing and how they were looking after their people in the north and how they were looking after the people throughout their area.”
Paul mentioned fire crews were on scene from around 8:30 a.m. Friday, stayed throughout the night, and were at the fire until around 1 p.m. Saturday.
“It was very disappointing to find that somebody would do that to a building, any building in our community,” said Paul.
The woman charged made her first court appearance Tuesday morning.
She is due to be back in court Wednesday morning.