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Man charged with arson following Lake Louise fire

Click to play video: 'Tenants in iconic Lake Louise staff accommodation lose everything in devastating fire'
Tenants in iconic Lake Louise staff accommodation lose everything in devastating fire
About 165 employees of Lake Louise ski resort have been left homeless after the Charleston residence was destroyed by fire. As Global’s Jayme Doll reports, it’s now the focus of a RCMP criminal investigation. – Jul 4, 2023

Four friends stand together on the other side of a police barricade, their eyes fixated on the smoldering ruins that used to be their home.  The only thing they have left is the clothing on their backs at this very moment.

“It’s just unreal,” said Gigi Harriss, who just moved to the mountain town to work at Lake Louise Ski Resort from Australia.  “You don’t know how to feel, everything you thought was yours is gone in a matter of hours.”

“I can’t go home at least for a few months with no job, no passport, no visa, no clothes.”

At around noon on Monday, Lake Louise RCMP received a report that the Charleston Residence was on fire and a man on the roof appeared to be in distress. Police and local fire departments responded.

Staff accommodations, which house up to 200, were evacuated that afternoon.

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On Monday, Mounties said a man has been charged following the fire.

Officers located the man on their arrival and said he was in possession of a weapon. Police de-escalated the situation, convincing the man to come down a ladder. RCMP said when the man was coming down the ladder, he slipped and fell to the ground, resulting in non-life threatening injuries.

The man was taken to a Calgary hospital for treatment.

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Following an investigation, the man was arrested and charged, RCMP said Tuesday.

Timothy Alexander Peterson, 40, of Lake Louise was charged with arson and possession of a weapon.

Peterson has been remanded into custody and will appear in court on July 7.

Thomas Zimmermann said he was one of the first to call 9-1-1 on Monday when smoke and flames started to engulf the iconic Charleston Residence nearly 200 people call home.

“I was running door to door just trying to alert people and get them out,” Zimmerman said. He is originally from Ottawa.

“I’m type one diabetic and I lost all my insulin and it was quite a pain to get it.”

The evacuees are now dispersed at various hotels, on friends couches and other staff accommodations but it’s a temporary fix.  Dan Markham with Lake Louse Ski Resort and Summer Gondola said they are doing everything to try to find housing but it is a huge challenge, especially in a place with a perpetual housing crisis.

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Markham said they are considering bringing in mobile trailers or other temporary structures to house staff and didn’t rule out the possibility of sending people to Calgary if they can’t find homes in the Bow Valley.

The criminal investigation is disheartening to so many past and present tenants who commonly called the apartment building, which is nicknamed “Chucktown”, home.

Many young people from around the world have at one time in their life called Chucktown home. While everyone got out safely it was more than just a building full of belongings. It was a place of belonging.

“It was my home,  I was settled in has all my things in there to have it gone and all my things gone it’s definitely soul-shattering,” said Cam Potter who was sleeping when the fire alarm went off.

“There were countless first, many memories, friends, first loves,” said Brittney Macrae who lived there for three seasons. “There’s everything in that building.”

The Bow Valley is wrapping evacuees in its arms, with businesses and individuals spearheading clothing drives and a GoFundMe campaign.

Summer operations are suspended at Lake Louise Ski Resort but officials are hopeful it will be up and running again this season. However, nothing is certain.

Crews will remain on scene putting out hotspots while dozens of people trying to figure out what to do next.

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–With files from Adam Toy, Global News.

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