When the Alliance Commercial Hotel went up in flames early Sunday morning, the small community lost a tangible part of its history.
For the 170 residents of Alliance, the blaze destroyed a valued 90-year-old landmark.
Alliance fire chief Carl Cameron said the call came in at 2:29 a.m. Sunday and when the fire department arrived, the top floor of the hotel was fully engulfed in flames.
“Twenty-five fire fighters from the Alliance, Forestburg and Galahad fire departments responded,” Cameron said.
Alliance is about 35 kilometres northeast of Castor.
Although firefighters weren’t able to save the hotel, they kept the fire from spreading to nearby buildings.
Cameron said fire crews put water on the town office next door to keep it cool.
“There was lots of ash going through the air, but luckily the nearby houses had snow on their roofs,” he said.
“We kept a watch on the houses and checked the people to make sure they weren’t suffering from smoke inhalation.”
Within an hour and a half of firefighters arriving at the blaze, the structure collapsed, they said.
The fire caused telephone service to be out in half of the town.
The blaze also resulted in low water pressure for the residents until mid-afternoon Sunday.
Late Sunday afternoon, the rubble was still burning. Fire crews were expected to keep watch on the site throughout the night.
The cause of the blaze wasn’t immediately known, but Cameron said there would be an ongoing investigation.
The owner of the hotel isn’t from the area.
The fire left a bitter end to an otherwise celebratory weekend in Alliance. Saturday marked Santa Daze as the community hosted a Christmas market, public skating and an outdoor bonfire with hotdogs and hot chocolate.
The Christmas party had doubled as a celebration of the community’s new arena, which had replaced the rink that collapsed because of heavy snow in January 2011.
Alliance residents are trying to imagine life without the Commercial Hotel, a fixture in the community for almost a century.
“This is a small community,” Mayor Muriel Fankhanel told the Edmonton Journal. “When one business goes, the others are all affected. We’re struggling. We didn’t need another setback.”
Many members of the community were in disbelief, Cameron told the Journal.
“People are coming out and looking at it, saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe the hotel is gone.’ That’s what everybody is saying. ‘I can’t believe the hotel is gone.’
“It’s just shocking. It’s heartbreaking in a way. There are a lot of memories there.”