Main Street went through a drastically noticeable change, as one of it’s most iconic landmarks now lies in ruins.
The King Edward’s reign ended on Saturday, Feb. 15, from a dramatic fire that consumed the building, leaving it completely destroyed.
The 116-year-old building was a staple of Pincher Creek’s Main Street, and managed to continue to attract visitors throughout it’s lifespan until it’s untimely and tragic demise.
For most residents, the building was a standing homage to the history of Pincher Creek, but for David McQuaig, owner of the King Edward Hotel, his relationship with the building was much more personal.
McQuaig first purchased the King Edward in 2006, to begin a new chapter of his life with his late husband Scott Janke.
“We bought it… when it when just a bar and basically a rooming house upstairs. Over the years, we opened up (The Grill Restaurant), and that became fairly successful, but it became apparent that the restaurant was much nicer than the building,” said McQuaig.
McQuaig and Janke eventually took it upon themselves to refurbish the building to keep the place fresh and lively.
“Around 2013 and 2014 we spent around $300,000 to $400,000 renovating the hotel outside and inside to bring it back to being a nightly hotel with a bar and a restaurant.”
The location continued to serve as a bustling community spot, with the Grill regularly packed with customers, and the hotel fully booked at the time of the fire.
At about 3:45 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, smoke detectors within the building had triggered alarms.
“I was asleep at home when I got a call from the alarm company, so I went down. At that point in time guests were already exiting the building, because they had been woken up by the fire alarms,” said McQuaig.
“We then made sure somebody was calling 911, and we went through the building and opened all the suites to make sure everyone was out.”
He said it didn’t take long for the well-being of the building to become a serious concern.
“It was around 6 or 7 a.m. or about an hour after the fire department got there when we were starting to get concerned. They discovered fire on the main floor, as well as at the back of the building,” said McQuaig.
“Then we started to see smoke coming from under the roof. It started in the very back of the building upstairs, so at that point in time I started to feel like we were going to lose it,” he said.
“Once (the fire) is in the roof it’s a pretty tough thing. We don’t have any aerial trucks here, so you can’t really get up there and open the roof and get water in there—we had to wait until the flames actually broke through the roof.”
All of the guests and residents at the hotel, as well as at neighbouring properties were safely evacuated, and no injuries were reported from the fire.
Brett Wuth, Director of Emergency Management for Pincher Creek’s Regional Emergency Management Organization (REMO) said all parties involved carried out the All Hazards Plan almost perfectly.
“(The response) went really well and according to plan. I was very pleased to see how Pincher Creek Emergency Services, the RCMP, Town and M.D. personnel and Alberta Health Services were all able to come together, and work to a coordinated plan that we collectively put together,” said Wuth.
A total of 15 evacuees from both the hotel and buildings to the east had registered at a reception centre which was established within the Pincher Creek Town Hall Gym throughout the weekend.
There were 15 people registered as tenants of the hotel, but only seven of them were evacuated. The rest had been away from the community at the time of the fire.
A local state of emergency was declared at 9:45 a.m. on February 15, and continued until 4:30 p.m. the next day. Roads in the area were closed off from 8:15 a.m. on February 15 until 3:30 on February 16.
Wuth said considering the potential risks, the situation could have been a lot worse.
“We were definitely concerned about fire spreading. We’re really please that they managed to contain it just to that one building,” said Wuth.
“As a precaution, we declared the state of local emergency for exactly that reason,” he said.
He said that neighbouring buildings are still going through the inspection process to determine any possible damages.
“That’s still being evaluated by the building owners and their insurance companies. I do believe that there are some concerns with two of the adjacent buildings, but that’s being managed by Alberta Health Services,” he said.
He said the fire and how it was handled by all parties involved shows the value of emergency planning.
“The whole reason that we exist has always been to protect life, property, and the environment. All our concerns are going out to the business and property owners that have been affected,” said Wuth.
McQuaig said Emergency Services did a great job at combating the fire to the best of their ability.
“I think Pincher Creek Emergency Services did an awesome job trying to save the building as long as they could. They had a preventative plan in place and were pouring water on adjacent buildings just in case they weren’t able to save it.”
When he first purchased the building, McQuaig said over time he came to realize the significance the King Edward had to Pincher Creek’s community.
“I didn’t (know about the significance) until I started running it, and I started hearing all the stories of the history of the town and the hotel. That’s probably what prompted us to realize that this was a building worth saving and preserving. It was right around the time when we started the exterior renovations,” said McQuaig.
“The City of Calgary was moving an old historic house in the town, and their city planner was on the news and I heard him make a comment that really stuck with me to this day—he said ‘do you know how you get a 200-year-old building? You save a 100-year-old building,” he said.
“That’s what my goal was—to see it become a 200-year-old building. That’s what was on my mind.”
Fighting through tears, McQuaig said what was lost in the fire was a lot more than just property.
“It’s a big part of my life. When I came (to Pincher Creek) it was just an investment—I had never owned a bar and I thought I’d see how things go,” he said.
He said much of the building was part of the legacy of the late Scott Janke.
“(Janke) was the vision behind all of the design and everything that happened. Not only did he design it from start to finish and make sure that we had quality meals, he did the whole interior design of the building and any renovations that we did,” said McQuaig.
“It was a labour of love.”
While the King Edward Hotel may have reached the end of it’s days, McQuaig said his plan going forward will be to reopen The Grill.
“We’re looking at options right now here in town to acquire another property or something, but it all depends on what insurance is going to say,” said McQuaig.
He said those talks have been positive so far.
“We did have a good conversations with them and the fire investigator (on February 16). They do feel that it’s an accidental fire, and that there’s nothing suspicious about it,” he said.
“That should make things move along a lot more quickly and clearer for us, and we should know shortly what’s going to happen.”
McQuaig said he’s considered rebuilding an establishment where the King Eddy once stood, but specifics are unclear at this time.
The King Edward wasn’t officially designated as a historical site, but was included in the list of potential candidates several years ago through the Municipal Heritage Partnership Program, which recognized it’s historical significance.