By Marcia Love
Two businesses were consumed by fire when a downtown building went up in flames Saturday night.
The building at 609 First Avenue which housed Cypress Cleaners and Northern Lights Therapy & Spa caught fire just before 10 p.m. and was quickly engulfed.
The Maple Creek Fire Department, EMS and RCMP responded to the fire, with Downie Lake and Cypress Hutterite colonies also called in as well as Gull Lake Fire Department.
Cypress Pizza & Chicken owner William Yang spotted smoke coming from the building just before 10 p.m. as he was returning to his business across the alley from the laundromat.
“I came back from a delivery… so right away I called 9-1-1,” he recalled. “It was just a little (smoke) on the roof, and all of a sudden there was more and more coming.”
He sent two customers across the street to the Jasper Hotel to alert people there, who also called 9-1-1. The patrons then ran to the house beside the laundromat on the corner of First Avenue and Harder Street to get the occupant out safely.
Yang noted the Maple Creek Fire Department arrived very quickly – within about 10 minutes of the call. But the fire spread fast in the commercial building.
“We had one crew go in, but they couldn’t get to it,” stated Fire Chief Keith Stork. “It was just kind of coming out every corner of the building.”
When firefighters couldn’t see any flames inside the smoke-filled building, they exited and fought it from outside.
“We backed out of it because it wasn’t safe,” Stork said.
The town was called to increase water pressure, and a backhoe was brought in to knock down the burning walls and contain the fire.
The Gull Lake Fire Department brought in additional self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighters.
Firefighters hosed down the side of the neighbouring house and kept the blaze contained despite winds from the southwest pushing the flames toward the house.
Local Salvation Army volunteers were on hand to distribute water and food to emergency responders throughout the night.
Fire crews had the blaze contained just after midnight, but firefighters were on scene until about 3 a.m. putting out remaining hot spots. Two members stayed until the next morning watching for flare-ups.
A track-hoe was brought in on Sunday to tear up the rubble and hose down any remaining hot spots.
The building and the neighbouring house, which is a rental property, are both owned by Clay Wagner, who has operated Cypress Cleaners for almost seven years.
Wagner was at the laundromat 15-30 minutes before the fire was reported.
“I had locked it up for the night and I was at home in bed and the neighbours stopped in and said, ‘Your laundromat’s on fire,'” Wagner said.
He had just finished putting a new roof on the over 100-year-old building the day before.
The business operated with 10 washer units and seven dryers. An antique motorcycle Wagner was storing at the location was also destroyed, and a car he had as a project was damaged.
Northern Lights Therapy & Spa has operated at the location since Christina Baker opened the business – which offered physiotherapy, acupuncture and massage – in 2011. She has been running her business mainly from her own home, but still worked at the former location occasionally. Kathy Schneider joined Baker at the location about three years ago. All of her supplies and equipment were lost in the blaze, and they both lost their treatment tables.
Despite the huge loss, Wagner is thankful no one was injured.
“We’ve still got a home and all our family and nobody got hurt,” he said.
The cause of the fire remains unknown. An insurance adjuster was at the scene yesterday, but unless that investigation reveals anything, the cause of the fire will remain undetermined, Stork said.