Motel fire deemed ‘suspicious in nature’

Leader staff

More than just fireworks were going off in Slave Lake as Canada Day drew to a close. Shortly before midnight, a call came in that the Highway Motor Inn was on fire.

According to RCMP Staff Sgt. John Spaans, when police arrived “a large section of the north side of the building was involved in flames.”

Members of the Regional Fire Service fought the fire for several hours through the night. Judging by the pile of debris and two big gaps in the building, the fight included the use of a hoe to remove part of the building to protect the rest of it.

Spaans says the preliminary investigation showed that the fire was human-caused and “suspicious in nature.” No one was inside the building and no one was hurt in the incident.

The Highway Motor Inn has been closed and boarded up for some time. There have been complaints of people using it, and Spaans’ news release last week said, “evidence suggests unknown people had been squatting in the building.”

It’s not the only boarded up building in town that represents a safety hazard. Laurie Skrynyk, the town’s Planning and Development Director, told The Leader last week that enforcement measures are being contemplated, but she couldn’t comment on what exactly they would be.

“If there is a public safety issue, as defined by the MGA (Municipal Government Act), we can issue an enforcement order or try to get a court order for clean-up or to remove the buildings, etc.,” she said.

However, the costs can be substantial, as town manager Brian Vance reminded The Leader, and the chances of collecting may not be that good.

A rear view of the Highway Motor Inn, showing the holes that were smashed in the structure to isolate the burning section from the east and west wings of the building.
The majority of the abandoned motel was saved, but the headaches for the town continue, because it is a safety hazard, and getting the owners to deal with it is proving to be difficult and possibly expensive.

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