The Klondike River Lodge burned to the ground this past weekend.
The lodge, located at the junction to the Dempster Highway, was a popular spot for locals and tourists. It was the last place to fuel up on the Dempster before Eagle Plains, around 370 kilometres up the road.
The lodge and gas station were closed and boarded up for the winter at the time of the fire.
An employee with Highways and Public Works called in the fire just after 8 a.m. on Sunday.
Both the Dawson City and Klondike Valley fire departments responded to the blaze.
“We came up to the scene to see that the building was completely gutted and to the ground, other than a few spot fires here and there that were still burning,” said Jim Regimbal, the fire chief for Dawson City.
“It would have been quite a spectacular blaze at probably 3 or 4 in the morning.”
By the time the crews got to the lodge, however, there was nothing to do other than allow the fire to burn out and be ready in case it spread to other structures.
“It’s always the hardest part of the fire, is actually to do nothing,” said Regimbal. “You always want to get out and start doing the tasks that are required, but the task that was required was just basically to keep your distance in case any propane bottles or anything that might be in the building would explode.”
While the lodge is completely destroyed, the outlying buildings, including the gas pumps, were unaffected by the fire.
Locals have been making the trip to the scene of the fire, about 40 kilometres from Dawson City, in the days since, said Regimbal. The lodge has been reduced to a pile of rubble with pieces of tin roof on top.
“A lot of the locals including myself really enjoyed going there for lunch or breakfast. Or a lot of the travellers stopped there. People going up the Dempster stopped there to fill up with fuel and get some food in their belly before making that long trek up to wherever they’re off to.”
At this point, there is no indication of what might have started the fire, but it is being treated as suspicious, he said.
The site has been handed over to the RCMP, and an investigation will begin today.
“You kind of have to peel away a bit at a time to determine the area of origin and the cause,” said Regimbal. “Hopefully a cause can be determined as well, while
they do this.”
The lodge is owned by Brian McCarthy of Inuvik. He was on vacation in Ontario at the time of the blaze.
He called Regimbal when he heard there had been a fire.
“I let him know in a nice manner, but didn’t sugarcoat it, that the building was gutted in the fire,” said Regimbal.
Seven firefighters responded from the Klondike Valley Fire Department, with an additional five from the Dawson department offering support.
They are both volunteer organizations, said Regimbal.
“They’re ordinary people that step up to do extraordinary things. And in this case it was quite incredible to see the force of Klondike Valley Fire Department members out there when we got on scene.
“As tragic as it was in losing the landmark, there were no injures, so that was really good.”
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at firstname.lastname@example.org