Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Flames engulf Indigenous-owned resort in BC Interior

Guests at an Indigenous-owned resort in BC’s Interior were evacuated Sunday morning and watched as firefighters tried to contain the flames that had engulfed the building’s roof.

Quaaout Lodge, a 70-room hotel and lodge near Chase, is run by the Little Shuswap Lake Band, which is part of the Secwépemc Nation. Kukpi7 James Tomma told Castanet that firefighters from Skwlax Volunteer Fire Department and Chase Fire Rescue were still working to get the fire under control Sunday afternoon.

Flames Engulf Indigenous-Owned Resort In Bc InteriorPhoto submitted by Joel Levy

Tomma told Castanet the band will have more information in the coming days regarding the incident, but he said the community intends to rebuild.

“We did have an emergency meeting with our lodge employees and management. There’s nothing that we can do about the fact that a major part of our lodge is gone. But as a community and everything, we’re going to work through this, we’re going to rebuild,” Tomma said.

“We’re one of the largest employers in the area, so we’re not going to walk away. We can get through this.”

In a Facebook post, the resort said it will be closed until further notice and thanked first resoonders and everyone else who has shown support.

According to the resort’s website, the idea for a band-owned resort dates back to 1979. The lodge and spa opened in 1992 and a golf course and conference center were added in later years.

Joel Levy, who was visiting from Toronto with a group, was eating breakfast when the fire alarm went off around 8:30 am Standing in the parking lot with others who were staying there, many of whom had run out without their wallets or car keys , he watched as the fire spread.

“By the time the first firetruck arrived about 25 minutes later, it was already completely out of control,” he told Nation World News.

“A lot of our group were still in their beds and were woken up by the alarm. A lot of people are just in their nightgowns.”

The guests were taken to the nearby band hall, where they were offered food and water and connected with emergency services to find some place to stay while crews continue to fight the fire.

“When I left, it seemed like the actual flames had been put out. They’re going to be dumping water on it, apparently, all night.”

Flames Engulf Indigenous-Owned Resort In Bc InteriorPhoto submitted by Joel Levy

Levy said the resort seemed to be fully booked, with only a couple spots vacant in the parking lot. One woman he spoke to was there for a wedding and left without having a chance to get the rings.

However, he says the guests’ primary concern is the impact of the fire will have on the people who work there and on the community as a whole.

“It’s all just stuff. This is a very small community, the lodges employs a lot of people. That’s everybody here’s biggest worry,” he said.

“A lot of these people are going to be able to leave tomorrow and go back to their lives without a few clothes. But this is going to affect the community for years, maybe, especially if they have to rebuild this whole thing.”

Flames Engulf Indigenous-Owned Resort In Bc InteriorPhoto submitted by Joel Levy

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chief, offered his sympathy and support to the imacted community and the Secwépemc people.

“I loved the Quaaout lodge. Great food. Indigenous menu. Many good memories. Totally sad day,” he said in a statement shared on Twitter.

Video posted to social media shows thick plumes of smoke rising from the roof along with the flames. Nation World News has reached out to the RCMP and Chase Fire and Rescue for more information. This story will be updated if it is received.

Nation World News Desk
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