February 1987: the Outlaw Inn goes up in smoke

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

One of the bigger events, news-wise, in the life of this paper, was the destruction of a downtown Slave Lake landmark in February of 1987.

“Slave Lake’s longest-standing commercial building,” said Roderick Brooks in a front-page Lakeside Leader story on Feb. 18, “the Outlaw Inn, was completely destroyed by fire Sunday in one of the worst fires in this community’s history.”

Considering what was to come 24 years later, it ranks as pretty small potatoes.

But at the time it rated three full pages of coverage.

Brooks continued: “According to owner Dwayne Taylor (who went on to open a big bar in High Prairie and later a truss plant in Joussard), there were no guests in the hotel except for members of a rock band and a dancer when the early morning fire broke out.”

When the fire department arrived on the scene at 6:29 a.m., they found “heavy smoke and flames shooting from the second floor windows of the two-story woodframe structure.”

Despite the quick response, fire chief Les Glasier said the fire quickly spread into the ground-floor restaurant and tavern.

“All available members of Slave Lake’s 24-member fire brigade took part in fighting the blaze.

Glasier said the force was augmented by a pumper and crew from the ID 17 unit at Widewater, as well as being assisted by Alberta Power, which provided two ‘cherry pickers’ for aerial spraying.”

The fire was not declared officially out until Monday afternoon, by which time there wasn’t much of it left.

“The Outlaw Inn had been a landmark in Slave Lake, situated prominently in the downtown core,” Brooks’ report continued. Built at its present site 51 years ago, it had originally been located in the ‘Old Town’ – constructed there five years earlier in 1930.

After the old inn was destroyed by fire in 1935, the owners chose to rebuild in downtown a year later.

“Ownership of the hotel had changed hands several times, and extensive renovations to the building had occurred.

“Prior to the fire, the Outlaw Inn saw little trade as a hotel, but boasted a popular dining room and a tavern which featured regular live entertainment and exotic dancers.”

The Outlaw Inn was rebuilt, and was in business in its new incarnation until destroyed by fire along with much of the rest of Slave Lake on May 15, 2011.

The space it occupied sits empty seven years later, on 2nd Ave. NW, west of the RBC parking lot.

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