The community of Alexis Creek lost a historic building to fire overnight.
The Happy Eater Restaurant was completely destroyed by the blaze sometime early Friday morning, April 19.
— DriveBC C (@DriveBC_C) April 19, 2019
DriveBC reported just after 3 a.m. that Highway 20 was closed as the building, which is located close to the highway, burned, however, has since reopened.
The fire was contained to the structure and did not spread further as it was raining heavily overnight.
Cariboo Regional District Area K (East Chilcotin) director Chad Mernett was on site at the fire Friday morning and told Black Press Media the weather prevented a much larger catastrophe in the community.
“If it hadn’t been a heavy rain last night we could have lost many houses in the area,” Mernett said.
“There is no fire protection. I think this really shows why the government needs to follow through with its promises to deal with the old Cook Shack buildings that are a huge fire hazard.”
The ‘Cook Shacks’ Mernett is referring to is a derelict lot in the community which he believes is a fire hazard with long grass and old buildings in disrepair.
“It has very tall grass every year and the buildings are all open and unlocked. I believe people stay in the rooms sometimes and party in them,” Mernett said, adding there is also another empty building that adds to the danger in the community.
“These old buildings are a hazard for kids playing in them as well as being fire hazards. With no fire protection out here, if one of these buildings catch fire, especially when it’s hot and dry, this town will be in big trouble.”
Last year the community of Alexis Creek signed a petition to convince the government, who owns the property due to back taxes, to clean up the property to lower the fire risk to the community.
Mernett said he heard the government was looking to sell the ‘Cook Shacks’ property and hire a contractor to clean it up, but he doesn’t believe anything has been done to date.
In 2017 Alexis Creek was one of many communities in the Chilcotin evacuated due to the wildfires. Burned forests around the community are a visual reminder of how close the fires came to the community.
Black Media Press has reached out to the Alexis Creek RCMP for more details on what caused the Happy Eater Restaurant fire.
The Happy Eater Restaurant was one of the oldest buildings in Alexis Creek and served as the general store at one time.
It was a popular, family-style restaurant in the small community but hadn’t been opened in recent years.