Twenty-five firefighters from across Flagstaff County battled in vain to save the historic Commercial Hotel in Alliance after an early morning three alarm fire reduced the landmark to a smoking ruin.
The Alliance Fire Department received a call at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 9 that smoke and flames were visible coming from the second storey of the combination bar and hotel.
Crews arrived to find a fully involved structure fire with flames eating through the building’s roof. The hotel was built in 1915, three years before Alliance was incorporated as a village.
“When we arrived, the entire second floor was engulfed in flames,” Flagstaff County Fire Chief Kim Cannady told The Review.
Scene commanders quickly determined that the building was beyond hope of saving, and instead set up a defense perimeter to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading.
“The chance of structural collapse while fire fighters are inside was just too great,” said Cannady. “We had to set up a collapse zone immediately to ensure if a wall came down we would not injure any firefighters.”
Fire crews from nearby Galahad and Forestburg were dispatched to assist. The fire quickly consumed the entire building causing it to collapse into its foundation.
Crews battled bitterly cold weather along with the fire, braving temperatures of -27 degrees celsius that threatened to freeze hoses and nozzles. Crews were on scene until 6:30am monitoring the debris and dousing any hot spots.
Nobody was injured in the fire.
According to Cpl. Brent Robinson of the Killam RCMP, the bar’s operator issued last call at midnight. After the last patron left at 1 a.m. the operator departed for Edmonton to pick up supplies and was not present when the fire broke out. The RCMP were on scene to assist fire crews in traffic and crowd control.
Reaction from the community was swift.
“It definitely is devastating,” said Alliance Mayor Muriel Sankhanel. “I imagine it would have been worse if it was the summer, the snow definiltey helped contain [the fire].”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by provincial investigators and regional fire services.