Fire in Atlin, B.C., destroys general store, post office

·3 min read
The post office building in Atlin, B.C., burning down, captured around 3 a.m. on Friday. (Submitted by Robin Armour - image credit)
The post office building in Atlin, B.C., burning down, captured around 3 a.m. on Friday. (Submitted by Robin Armour - image credit)

A northern B.C. community is still reeling after an iconic land mark burned down in the early morning hours of Friday.

The post office in Atlin, B.C., along with the community's general store Sincerely Yours, went up in flames overnight.

The building burned to the ground. In a Facebook post, owner Tina St Cyr confirmed the fire.

Sharon Winegarden was awake around 1 a.m. when she noticed her home, which is about three buildings away from the general store, was without hydro power. She said she peeked outside her window to see if any one else appeared to be without power too.

That's when she saw smoke billowing from out of the roof of the post office and general store. The fire department was already there with lights flashing and pumper trucks on scene.

"There were several trucks and the firemen were all surrounding the building at that time even though the flames had not come out of the roof just yet," Winegarden said.

"So it took a while, but everything was hot, you could tell that this smoke was billowing out of all the different windows and so on."

She said seeing the fire up close made her realize just how quickly the flames can spread and cause serious damage.

"You see destruction, massive destruction," Winegarden said.

Volunteer firefighters and other first responders worked through the night to battle the blaze, said St Cyr's Facebook post, and she thanked the community for offering help.

'Difficult to replace'

In Atlin, a community with no cell service, the post office played a critical role in the lives of residents. People who live there say the building was something like the town's centre, where people met up.

For Winegarden, the post office was the first building she ever went to when she moved to the community. She still remembers how St Cyr greeted her there.

"We became friends. She was there asking or answering questions about all the people in the community about things that we needed to know to get around the community," Winegarden said, adding she even met the mayor at the same time.

"When I went in and people were coming and going constantly, any day that you went in that that building ... they had a notice board that posted everything going on in the community. And it truly was centre for people to come in and figure out what was going on."

Winegarden said she "definitely" witnessed the power of community to contain the fire.

"Not just the firefighters but others," she said.

Some of the local Rangers came out to help, including her son who is a ranger.

"One of the fellows that are driving the water truck, he's not a fireman but he was there doing load after load of water, in fact several of them were," she said.

There were people helping pull the fire hoses off the road when trucks went past, she said and community members gathering around to offer emotional support.

They were "just coming together and just saying this is really bad for well, not just for Rick and Tina but for the whole community," Winegarden said.

CBC
CBC

There's no word yet on the cause of the fire.

The northern B.C. community is a just over a two-hour drive from Whitehorse.

"It's going to be very difficult to replace that because there just aren't any buildings in Atlin right now where there'll be able to move the post office," Winegarden said.