June 14th, 2024

‘Suspicious’ fire destroys historic downtown hotel

By Lethbridge Herald on February 24, 2023.

Ry Clarke – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

An early morning fire, which police are calling suspicious, has destroyed a historic downtown building.

Emergency responders from four stations responded to the fire along 5 St South across from Galt Gardens at around 2:15 a.m. with 28 members.

The blaze at the Lethbridge Hotel resulted in the closure of 5 St. S. from 1 Ave to 3. Ave, and the closure of 2 Ave. at 4 St. with the city asking people to avoid the area for safety.

The City said in an afternoon release that due to extreme temperatures extensive ice build-up could compromise the structure making the area unsafe for the public and demolition was set to begin Friday afternoon with heavy equipment.

When fire crews arrived on scene, flames were visible from upper floors. The City says the vacant building sustained extensive damage.

Units attacked the fire with water from the front  and from behind in the alley to contain it on a morning when temperatures dipped into the -40C range.

 With temperatures sitting around minus-25 during the morning, a doctor was nearby in radio contact with responders. Initial reports mention there may have been vagrants in the building at the time of the fire, but nothing has been confirmed by the City. 

Built in 1885, the Lethbridge Hotel shares a rich history with residents, operating as more than a hotel when other establishments had yet to be built. 

“That is where the original hotel in Lethbridge was built by William Henderson, later Mayor Henderson. He built a building there in 1885. Not the same building we see today, but it has been the site of a hotel since 1885,” said Belinda Crowson, president of the Lethbridge Historical Society and city councillor Friday morning. 

“That was the site where the first town council met before they had their own building. Some of the church groups used little buildings and hotels in those days so the first Methodist church service was held in there. Colonel Macleod used the original hotel as a courtroom, because they didn’t have a court room yet. The original building was knocked down and then replaced with the building we see now, beginning in 1902 – 1903, when they put a three-storey modern hotel there, and of course it has been completely renovated several times since.”

“It has so much memory and so much history. It has such a connection on a personal level and a public level to the community,” said Crowson.

“I hear stories of people who say ‘our first time in Lethbridge, we didn’t have a house, so we stayed in the Lethbridge Hotel.’ There’s people who remember it as a hotel, there’s people who remember it as housing – because it was used for affordable housing in the later years. People have different memories of the bar, the restaurants, and the socialization in the building. It has connected with so many families and people for decades.”

Though it shares a rich history with Lethbridge, the hotel was not desiginated a historical site. 

“It has never been designated; certainly the owners had that option in the past,” said Crowson.

 “The Acadia Block had a major fire in 1918 and was rebuilt and is now a historic site. It is all about what kind of damage has been done. We have managed in the past to bring buildings back from incredible disasters. But right now, we don’t know what condition the building is in today. But it is about the choices that the owners make and whether they think it’s worthwhile or not. But buildings have been saved after fires and have been designated.”

With crews working all morning to extinguish the blaze in freezing conditions, the extent of the damages will determine the future of the building. 

“New things are great and wonderful, but not when they are coming at the loss of something that has so much memory and history. It has such a connection,” said Crowson. 

This comes nearly a month after another historical building in downtown was destroyed by a fire, the Bow on Tong, on January 31, just two blocks away on 2 Ave S.

The Lethbridge Police Service issued a release Friday afternoon asking anyone who may have been driving in the area between 1:45 a.m. and 2:15 a.m. to check their dash cameras for activity in the vicinity of the hotel. Police are also seeking anyone who was walking in the area and may have observed people or activity around the hotel to come forward. Anyone with information that could assist investigators is asked to call police at 403-328-4444.

 Police say the fire is being treated as suspicious and the investigation is ongoing.

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You have to applaud the firefighters for having to work in those frigid temps and keep their equipment and bodies from freezing up.
When the Bow On Tong burned we all knew the who and I commented that it was evident before the Bow burned that someone had been hanging out in the Lethbridge Hotel, with windows smashing out like something was thrown out of them. It was only a matter of time I stated back then that it would burn.
How many vacant homes, garages, sheds, etc. have we seened burned by these people in the last year? Many!
When will get stop pampering these criminals who have no respect for anyone, anything, and for themselves?
I am furious and it only supports my protest to end this gong-show on our streets.
When innocent people die from one of these fires when change come? I doubt it . . . leadership seems to find excuses why they can’t?
We need people who WILL do the job and take back our city!
Last night around 10:00 the fire department was at the Herald dealing with issues and and again early evening tonight. The article in the Herald stated they are tired of the fires in their entrances and the feces!
It is happening all over downtown!

Dennis Bremner

Totally unforeseeable! What a shock, who possibly could predict this kind of thing? I will check the writings of Nostradamus to see if it was at all possible to predict in advance, I will get back to you !
PS my apologies in advance for the sarcasm but if I am not sarcastic, I am antagonistic, vicious, and will maliciously attack the stupidity of all of this and the people that support the infrastructure that is committing it! So sarcasm works for me at the moment and perhaps the censors at the Herald?

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner

your comments here and further on are on the mark. is there any chance the building owners can be sued because the buildings were not up to fire codes? maybe matches and lighter cos, too? perhaps there is “employment” opportunity for these folk, via contracting arson work for business/building owners looking for insurance money.

Citi Zen

Yet another warming center shut down. What’s next?

Last edited 1 year ago by Citi Zen
Dennis Bremner

For information only. This fire thing is a trend that has been duplicated in many cities before Lethbridge, and it will be a trend that continues.
The Saviors will insist it is because these individuals do not have a warm place to stay. Which is categorically wrong and to be honest total “feces”!
This “fire” thing is a product of not wanting to follow any rules. So whether it be AlphaHouse or Blood Tribe running the shelter, it is the rule that you “shall not consume” while on the premises.
Interestingly enough, everyone knows, or should know that most Addicts cannot go all night or day without a hit. So what to do? Oh “what to do”?
So they leave the shelter, find an empty building, start a controlled fire because they truly do not have a death wish although some believe they do! Then they take a hit and suddenly everything is peaches and cream and someone decides to parade around with a lit piece of kindling.
Once all the empty buildings are burned down or bricked up so tightly they cannot get in, then they start finding empty ancillary buildings like old garages (I realize that has already been done) but natural progression is to stay as close to your dealer downtown and when all the buildings are burned that can be, then the expansion begins. The objective is to never move so far from your dealer that you need to walk along way to get your next hit.
Centralizing assistance makes things much easier, because when you head out from the garage you are hiding in, you head for lunch. So on the way to lunch you pick up your next hit and then after lunch head back to the garage.
Once those buildings have been burned down or are no longer accessible, the dealer moves into a home midway between the farthest reach of your new garage or building and the soup kitchen. Once the addicts realize the dealer is offering a bed in the house, suddenly you have another crack house in your neighborhood!
So just a suggestion, not a vicious attack, but the city should task the fire department if they have time between fires and calls to administer naloxone to sweep downtown first for insecure, accessible buildings and contact the owners. The city in turn should then subsidize the owners to secure their buildings because you are attempting to secure a window that under normal circumstances is just a window. A window is secure, unless of course you have created an environment that is not. We have created that environment!
Tips and tricks of the trade; What Copenhagen, Brussels, and Kiel did was put up plywood on windows and then paid street painters to paint drapes and make the plywood look like a window. That should be our next stage. It makes it look like a normal city to the tourist and he/she does not realize during the day time that they are in a dangerous part of town if after dark.
Once you have secured all the buildings downtown and they have no where to go, the next stage occurs, which is breakins for shelter so they can shoot up in peace, not breakins for items to pawn although both will occur simultaneously. So the next stage is to offer subsidies for alarms.
I will keep you informed as we progress through the stages one by one, never saying anything malicious, or saying the words I told you so,
Oh and of course the next stage is to raise taxes to pay for all of this because after all its No ones fault, right?
Disclaimer- The term “they” in the 4 paras that follow could be any “they” not a specific “they” or a “they” that could be considered a malicious attack on “they”
If only someone considered building a home for practicing addicts, that might solve the problem? What an amazing idea, wonder why no one in this city has thought of that? “They” have thought of ways to rehab the 5% while creating the Community Care Campus/Southern Alberta Rehab Facility and destroying our downtown, only?
Every City and I mean EVERY CITY believes that rehab is the answer. Well that is not working, and never has! So the next complaint is always “not enough beds”, then when “they” get enough beds and addicts don’t bite, “they” then start screaming legalize drugs. There is always another financially beneficial step to correct the problem for “they”! Yet when asked, “they” sympathize with the addicted and insist its not his/her fault, its always someone else’s. Doctors, Governments, mean people, bad mothers, bad fathers, satan, society was mean, etc.
So I have taken the precedent setting idea that if its not their fault as the “they” insist, then I should help those that will never succumb to there system! Which would be logical on the basis that 95% of the drug addicted population overtime dies!
So it baffles me why when offering to assist the 95% “they” can not reach, “they” do not want me to do it…Interesting eh? Its almost like “they” want them to remain addicted in the downtown? ! Perhaps its so “they” know where they are on a moments notice? Or, maybe not? Things to ponder on a Saturday Morning.
Is there ANYONE out there that has come up with a novel way of addressing the 95% who will remain practicing addicts until they die and at the same time make their life comfortable so they never have to worry about freezing in the cold again, AND, could solve the downtown problems? Hmmmm wonder if there is an ideas out there? https://lethccc.com

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner

Gee… here’s a grand idea! https://lethccc.com!! Imagine if you will, there were No Non-Profits looking to make a coin? My guess is even they would see this as a solution! It Is the Solution! It’s the Only solution to help the 95% of the people who don’t want rehab. So either keep on following the same old, same old watching our buildings, downtown and people/businesses disappear like every other city who has adopted the thinking that the Non-profits are our saviors, OR Save Lethbridge and Save Lives and Livelihood without expecting Anything other than that. Greed is such an ugly face, don’t you think? It hurts more people then it knows.

Last edited 1 year ago by bladeofgrass
pursuit diver

Many addicts have died already, but they just bring in more!
BC sees the largest fatal overdoses. with over 25 OPS/SCS/mobile OPS sites in operation and sees almost 200 fatal overdoses per month and in the greater Vancouver DTES alone, with only 20,000 people they spend over $360 million annually on over 270 organizations for housing and support services. BC has the highest fatal overdose rates and has operated safe injection sites since 2003, 20 years and every year fatal overdoses have increased, the number of addicts/homeless, the related crimes and the encampments.
Alberta has 7 SCS/mobile sites and we saw an average of 116 fatal overdoses per month.
Saskatchewan has one SCS not government funded and Manitoba has no SCS and those two provinces see about 1/3 the fatal overdoses per month that Alberta sees.
BC non-profits have a billion dollar industry because of the addiction/homeless issues and they are trying to increase their presence in Alberta cities. Just because they say they are non-profit doesn’t mean they do not benefit from it as well many are paid well.
The more services you provide the more people will come. BC has proven that!

Last edited 1 year ago by pursuit diver
pursuit diver

Will this be a wake-up call that action is needed? I doubt it!
North American cities are starting to wake-up to the fact that allowing loitering, encampments and unbridled drug use comes at a high cost to people, property and taxpayers and starting to focus on enforcing loitering/vagrancy laws, acting on illegal encampments and involuntary treatment for addicts and those suffering from mental health issues.
BC spends hundreds of millions on non-profit organizations and they only increase the issues because they attract more users instead of resolving the issues.
Bill Ginter, who operates the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen finally stated something I agree 100% with when commenting on the news about the homeless issues recently: He stated that the services we provide attract people to the city!
Many of us have tried to proclaim these and show them that BC has proven that the more services you provide, the more people will come.
Will we ever get this?