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    Default Historic Building Burns in High River Alberta

    It was a long day yesterday - and here are a couple photos. No exposure damage. Departments from Okotoks, Blackie and Black Diamond were called for mutual aid. Fire started aproximatly 8am was contained by 5pm. Fire watch until 7am today. We will start our investigation on wednesday! More to come later - must go clean up!

    Tue, November 29, 2005

    Blaze levels historic hotel

    A firefighter watches as the historic High River hotel burns yesterday. It was the second such fire within a week. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK, Sun)
    HIGH RIVER -- Eight people watched in horror yesterday as their home went up in flames in a fire that ravaged a historic High River hotel.

    Daryl Poole, 40, who lived in Smiley's Gateway Hotel, about 50 km south of Calgary, was woken just after 8 a.m. yesterday by a jarring fire alarm.

    "There was smoke coming through the vents and I figured I should get the heck out of there," he said.

    Poole, who lived in the hotel for more than two years, said the smoke in the halls was so thick he had to feel his way along the walls to escape. "I know the place pretty well so it was sort of by memory as well," he said.

    All eight residents -- including an 85-year-old Chuck Harty, who has lived there since 1999 -- were able to escape.

    "I couldn't see where I was going. I was gasping for air," Harty said while watching the hotel burn down from across the street. "I'm close to not being here. I have no idea where I am staying tonight. I'm 85 years old and I am out on the street."

    Steve Jones, who lived on the hotel's second floor, said he smelled smoke and went immediately for assistance and called 9-1-1.

    "I didn't lose too much. I'm OK, but right now I don't know where I am going to live," Jones said.

    Darryl Blaskovits said the massive fire stole everything from him. "I don't have anything left," he said. "All of my clothes and belongings are gone."

    The town's Super 8 Motel has offered to house the homeless residents and the Salvation Army will provide food, clothing and household items.

    Fire Chief Len Zebedee said he was on scene within three minutes of receiving the call, but the building was already fully engulfed.

    "There was smoke coming out of every corner at that time," he said. "It was a difficult fire to fight because it's an old building and there are lots of layers because of many years of renovations."

    Zebedee said firefighters don't know what caused the blaze, but believe it started somewhere in the building's bar.

    There was no kitchen in the bar and Zebedee said the fire is currently being treated as suspicious.

    Firefighters from Blackie, Black Diamond and Okotoks helped the High River department in tackling the blaze.

    It took more than an hour to get the fire under control and portions of the building collapsed.

    Zebedee said it was sad to see the old building destroyed.

    "It's a tough day seeing one of your historical buildings go," he said.

    The building, one of the oldest in the town, was to celebrate its centennial this year.

    At one point, the Gateway Hotel was the only bar in High River.

    Zebedee said although it underwent numerous renovations over the years, it was up to fire safety code standards

    Poole, who will be moving in with friends temporarily, said he is shocked by how fast the fire destroyed everything. "This hasn't really sunk in yet," he said. "Everything is gone."
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    -I have learned people will forget what you said,
    -People will forget what you did,
    -But people will never forget how you made them feel!

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