Driver's alert saved gas station, restaurant near Waskesiu from fire that destroyed motel

·3 min read
Firefighters work to stop the spread of a fire that destroyed a motel beside LT's Food and Fuel along Highway 2 North on Wednesday.  (Tony Mack/Facebook - image credit)
Firefighters work to stop the spread of a fire that destroyed a motel beside LT's Food and Fuel along Highway 2 North on Wednesday. (Tony Mack/Facebook - image credit)

An alert from a passing driver helped prevent a fire that destroyed his motel from spreading to his other businesses, the grateful owner said Thursday.

Hong Cam, who owns LT's Food and Fuel at the intersection of Highway 2 North and Highway 264, better known as the turnoff to Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park, told CBC News he was working at the gas station about 1 p.m. Wednesday when a driver came in off the highway and said the motel next door — which Cam also owns — was on fire.

"I was just surprised and I said, 'Oh, really?' So I came out with the customer and I saw smoke coming up from the back," Cam said.

Photos and video of the fire, posted online by a passersby, show large plumes of black smoke and flames flickering close to LT's main building.

"If the customer on the highway didn't notice that, we don't even know. It might haved burned into the main section, too," Cam said.

The main building, which is physically separate from the 12-room motel, includes the gas station, restaurant and living quarters where Cam's wife was asleep at the time.

They all phone and call if we need any food … and and they expressed their concern. So we really appreciate and feel so thankful for all the local people around here. - Hong Cam, owner of LT's Food and Fuel

Cam said she got out safely, along with his brother who was in the main kitchen. The motel, which was empty at the time, had served overnight travellers and short-term workers in the area.

Gail Gelsinger/Facebook
Gail Gelsinger/Facebook

In a statement Wednesday, the Lakeland Fire Department called the motel a "total loss," adding tireless work by fire crews prevented the flames from spreading.

Cam said he has no idea how the fire started. Officials are investigating its cause. Insurance adjusters were expected to visit the site Thursday.

Cam said he's grateful no one was harmed, and that a large part of his business survived. He was also moved by the outpouring of support from nearby residents.

"They all phone and call if we need any food … and and they expressed their concern. So we really appreciate and feel so thankful for all the local people around here," he said.

Cleanup is now underway on the site, which Cam hopes to have finished by the start of the summer season for Waskesiu.

Tony Mack/Facebook
Tony Mack/Facebook

LT's an important stop: La Ronge mayor

Aside from tourists, LT's Food and Fuel is a major lifeline for people driving along the corridor to northern Saskatchewan.

There is currently only one other gas station, in the hamlet of Weyakwin, along a roughly 200-kilometre stretch of Highway 2 between the hamlet of Northside and the La Ronge area.

The mayor of La Ronge, Colin Ratushniak, told CBC News on Thursday he drove past LT's just hours before the fire.

"LT's is one of the staples along that highway … it would be quite sad to see it go," Ratushniak said.

The mayor noted smaller gas stations in northern Saskatchewan often have limited hours, so LT's is an important place for people to access necessary services.

Ratushniak also commended the work of the fire departments involved in controlling the fire, adding crews don't have direct access to fire hydrants in that area.

Alongside Lakeland, Waskesiu Fire Department, Buckland Fire Rescue, Montreal Lake Fire Department, OSS Water hauling and SPSA Weyakwin Fire Base were also involved in the response.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting