Days after the Elks Hall in Leslieville was destroyed by what officials believe was a suspicious fire Friday night, residents are still reeling from the community’s loss.
Leslieville Elks group leader, Royce Koester, said the “historical” building has been in the community for about 70 years, in the hamlet of about 250 people. The hall is one of the 250 lodges across Canada owned by the Elks.
“It’s a great loss for the town,” he said.
As for what happens now, Koester said, Elks members will meet after New Year’s.
“Everything is up in the air right now,” he said.
Claudette Arnold, a Leslieville resident, lived right across from the hall for the past 27 years. She said the building was first thing she saw every morning from her house.
“It’s so sad,” she said.
Thirty-three firefighters from four different fire stations were called to Elks Hall Leslieville, east of Rocky Mountain House, just after 7 p.m. on Friday.
Temperature dropped below -42 C Friday night, which complicated the firefighters’ efforts. Leslieville’s lack of hydrant system only made things worse for the firefighters.
“Everything was freezing on us,” said Steve Debienne, Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue chief.
“Fighting fires in those temperatures is extremely hard on firefighters and hard on the equipment,” said Debienne.
The investigation is still ongoing but Debienne said the fire department has reason to believe the fire was suspicious. More details will be released Tuesday.
The fires lasted for a couple of hours after a bystander had made the 911 call.
The hall was a staple to the “tight-knit” community, said Debienne.
No injuries were reported in the structure fire.