Fire in Heisler's historic downtown leads to emotional loss for business owners

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Fire in Heisler's historic downtown leads to emotional loss for business owners

Fire in Heisler's historic downtown leads to emotional loss for business owners

Two historic buildings in the central Alberta village of Heisler have been destroyed in a large fire.

Fire crews were called to the scene at approximately 12 p.m. Wednesday, and fought to bring the flames under control for more than seven hours.

The fire leveled a building that housed an ATB Financial branch, the only bank in the village of 160 people, and Heisler Hair and Massage, formerly known as Patty's Permatorium.

The second building was being converted into a prefabricated home business. 

It was an emotional day for Noreen Steil, the owner and operator of the ATB branch. The bank had been in the building for the past three years.

Steil had just arrived home for lunch when she heard the building was on fire.

"I didn't comprehend what was going to happen until I came from my house onto the corner of the highway and seen the smoke rolling across the way," Steil said.

"It's very emotional to see your business going up in flames."

Heisler Hair and Massage was a new business that had just opened three months ago, a rare occurrence in the small village.

"Everybody was pretty proud and happy that a new business was coming into town," Steil said. "Three months later and it's gone."

Firefighters managed to save adjacent buildings from serious damage.

Right next door to the fire is the Heisler general store and butcher shop. The fire stained some of the siding black, but that was the worst of the damage and the store was open for business on Thursday.

Catharina Falvo-Stewart was working in the store when a resident alerted her to the fire.

She ran to the back of the store to see if it had caught on fire.

"I grabbed our fire hose and I noticed that there was a fire patch along the side of the building," Falvo-Stewart said. "I was trying to put out the flames there or at least soak the ground so the fire wouldn't spread to the building."

"They're just a pile of ruins," said Calvin MacAhonic, the public works foreman in Heisler.

'Devastating for a tiny village'

Both buildings destroyed in the fire, located on Main Street, were more than 100 years old.

"They were landmark buildings," said MacAhonic. "Even though they've changed over the years, it's a big part of history for the village of Heisler.

"There's going to be a lot of community members who remember it from way back when. I feel for them."

For now, the village will be without a bank, while the closest one is a 15-minute drive away in Daysland. Steil plans to reopen the ATB branch, but she's not sure how long that will take.

"We have lots of seniors in town who aren't mobile and can't get around to other towns," she said. "I just love having them in and tell me how their day is going or just to talk."

The battle to extinguish the fire depleted the village's water reservoir and Heisler's 160 residents are being asked to cut back their consumption until the end of the week. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Heisler is about 65 kilometres southeast of Camrose, on Highway 855.