Strong winds played havoc in Carmangay and the surrounding area Sunday, causing village residents to be evacuated due to a large grass fire and also playing a role in the destruction of the Grange Hotel.
Village residents were evacuated from their homes Sunday afternoon after the grass fire started near the village. They were allowed to return that evening once the blaze had been contained.
The Champion fire hall was opened to anyone who was evacuated and required shelter. Some residents went to the Champion fire hall, some stayed with relatives and others waited outside the fire zone until they could go back to the village, said Vulcan RCMP.
The evacuation went very smoothly, said RCMP.
Early Sunday, another fire burned down Carmangay’s historic Grange Hotel.
Sue Dahl, Carmangay’s fire chief, said the Grange Hotel call came in at 1 a.m. Sunday. When firefighters arrived at the hotel, which is about a block away from the fire hall along Carman Street, the building was smoking a little bit on the east side, said Dahl.
The fire was progressing westwards, towards the wind — which Dahl said was “kind of weird.”
When firefighters from Champion arrived on scene, there were then enough firefighters to enter the building, said Dahl. Firefighters were in the building for a very short amount of time, she said.
Once the flames breached the Grange’s roof, there was nothing that could be done to save the structure, said Dahl.
The three people living inside the building were outside when firefighters arrived, she said.
Carmangay’s fire department got plenty of help from other fire departments to contain the fire, preventing it from spreading to other buildings. Firefighters from Granum, Picture Butte, Claresholm and Lomond, as well as Vulcan County staff, all hauled water, said Dahl.
Village’s Bistro had slight damage, the library had some damage to its siding, and what’s called the old MLA building also sustained some damage, said Carmangay’s fire chief.
Dahl stayed on scene until about 3:30 p.m., when she responded to the next fire — the grass fire.
The fire chief was back at the Grange at 11 p.m., and then again at 3:30 a.m. and 6 a.m., to help put out hot spots.
The Grange Hotel was roughly 112 years old, having opened in 1909, said Dahl.
“It was the oldest building in town,” she said.
On Facebook, Vulcan County sent out a big thank you Monday morning to the volunteer firefighters from across the county for helping out Sunday.
“They worked tirelessly all day, beginning in the early morning hours in Carmangay, battling the Grange Hotel fire, and then throughout the afternoon and well into the evening fighting the grass fire, which threatened property in the southwest part of the County,” reads the Facebook page. “In both instances Mother Nature had a tough hand to beat due to high winds and dry conditions. However, in both circumstances, everyone pulled together and worked together to beat odds that seemed somewhat stacked against us.
“Thank you also to all of the other first responders who were able to be on scene and make sure everyone stayed safe, Vulcan County public works department and to the many farmers who had hooked up their discs and were ready to help when needed, and lastly all other members of the surrounding communities in keeping each other safe. We appreciate each and every one of you!
“We truly do live in an amazing community and it’s incredible to watch everyone come together in such a time of need.”