The community of Meadow Lake is in mourning after an arena that served as host to countless hours of hockey, skating and community love has suffered significant damage following a fire early Sunday morning, according to officials.
News of the fire was announced on the official Facebook page for the Meadow Lake community, saying the arena has served the community for 45 years.
"We're just now getting back in service," said Neil Marsh, fire chief in Meadow Lake at around 11 a.m. He said the blaze resulted in almost every member of the volunteer force being called out, with firefighting efforts starting at around 1 a.m. and lasting until about 9 a.m.
The source of the fire and how much damage was caused is still under investigation, and Marsh says responding to a fire that size is uncommon for his brigades.
"Well, it was no ordinary fire," he said. "It's definitely a larger building than we often have to deal with."
No one was injured as a result of the fire, but Marsh called the damage quite extensive, saying it's almost a "total loss" scenario. In the post from the Meadow Lake Facebook page, it calls the fire an "incredible loss."
Mayor Merlin Seymour, who was still busy dealing with the fire's aftermath on Sunday, said many in the community are heartbroken by the loss, as the arena was a huge part of Meadow Lake.
"It's devastating for the whole community," he said. "It's still sinking in. It's tough."
Seymour explained the arena was the heartbeat of Meadow Lake, and even though it had served those in Meadow Lake for more than four decades, the arena was still in terrific shape.
Jordan McPhail, Deputy Mayor of La Ronge, says he understands the heartbreak the community is experiencing, saying northern and remote communities depend heavily on their rinks and arenas as a community gathering place.
"I just know what that space means for a lot of communities, so my heart goes out to the community and the members there," he said.
McPhail says while La Ronge is hours away from Meadow Lake, they'd be willing to offer up their arena for any needs they may have moving forward, saying he's sure communities across the province who know the importance of an arena like the one lost at Meadow Lake.
"If they're looking for spaces, I'm sure it's not only La Ronge, but other communities across the area are willing to help them out with rental spaces in the time if they need it," he said.
McPhail says residents in remote communities across the province should be keeping their eyes peeled on how to help as they try to rebuild such an important part of the community.
Gary Vidal, MP for the Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River constituency in Northern Saskatchewan and former mayor of Meadow Lake, says the damage to the arena is a big hit.
"It's not everybody, but a large part of the community has a history, and spends a lot of their life in those places," he said of the arena, which opened when he was 12 years old. Vidal spent hours in the arena as a young player, a senior league member and eventually a coach to his own kids
"I spent an awful lot of hours in that arena for a lot of years and it means a lot to a community and it means a lot to me personally," he said. "Yeah, it was 45 years old, but it was in tremendous condition and it was the envy of a lot of communities that we played against."
For Seymour and the community of Meadow Lake, he says there are many meetings and discussions ahead, but notes they have nearby Flying Dust First Nation to help address any facility needs for now, saying he's confident they will find a way forward.
"We'll just carry on and do the best that we can," Seymour said, noting they have a good relationships with its neighbouring communities and hope other communities in the province will come out to help.
"It's the morning after it happened, so many decisions to be made and many discussions to be had."