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Firefighters respond to blaze at former Eagles Hall

Photos by Guy Bertrand

It’s been years since the Eagles Hall has seen heated activity on its dance floor.

But on Sunday night the venerable downtown hall hosted 33 firefighters from across Greater Trail as they danced with a four-alarm fire on the second floor of the City of Trail-owned building.

“Heavy fire” was showing from the second floor of the building and smoke billowed out when fire crews from Trail, Warfield, Montrose and Rossland arrived just after 8 p.m.

This was a substantial fire in the downtown core, said Kootenay Boundary Fire Rescue deputy regional fire chief Dan Derby, and as a result the department responded accordingly with manpower.

“We worked hard to limit the fire’s opportunity to (spread) in the downtown, but that was definitely a focus of our response and one of the reasons we call out the number of crew we do is to ensure that that doesn’t happen,” he noted.

There was ample fire separation between the hall and the nearby structures, said Derby, but patrons at the nearby Royal Theatre were evacuated at the beginning of the call until firefighters were able to gain control of the scene.

Derby could not comment on the nature of the fire, although he did say it was “not suspicious in nature.”

Mayor Dieter Bogs said it appeared the fire could have resulted from a short in the electrical wiring. Currently, the city has a crew removing the asbestos in the building as they prepare the structure for demolition.

“They are really tearing the building apart to get at all of the asbestos,” Bogs said. “Whether that created an issue of a short, I don’t know.”

Using a number of fire attack lines firefighters slowly advanced through the structure as it burned, moving up into the second floor. Derby said firemen had to strip out drywall and panelling as they made their way to ensure they got right down to where all of the fire was extinguished.

“It’s an old building with lots of hidden spaces and just typical of an old building that is being renovated,” he said. “There is lots of overhaul required to ensure you are able to extinguish all of the fire.”

The size of the building and the size of the fire necessitated the large response of firefighters, said Derby.

“For a building that was unmonitored by a fire alarm system, and we were able to contain the fire to the room of origin, we felt that was a very successful fire fight,” he said.

“That was attributed to being able to throw as many resources at the fire at the beginning by calling in the other companies.”

The fire was not without casualties. One firefighter slipped and fell and dislocated his shoulder. He was transported to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and had his shoulder reset.

Within fours hours firefighters were clear of the scene. A crew was kept on scene overnight to monitor for hot spots but none surfaced.

The city purchased the Eagles Hall for $335,000 in May and announced they would tear the building down, open the area up and then look at the development of a downtown civic plaza concept.

“It was bought awhile ago because it was consistent with the downtown action plan, but nothing is going to be done this year other than internal, environmental work,” Trail’s chief administrative officer David Perehudoff said in early August.

But the downtown civic plaza project had been placed on the back burner as the city tried to advance its Gateway project.

The fire does not mean plans for the site—and the building’s continued demolition—are being aborted, said Bogs. Asbestos removal is still expected to continue and be completed by the end of the year, followed by demolition of the hall itself in 2013.

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