South Peace News
A fire in the old High Prairie Health Complex has reignited steps to plea the provincial government to demolish the building.
Crews from High Prairie Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call around 1:50 p.m.
“[The] cause of the fire is undetermined,” says fire chief Trevor Cisaroski.
“It’s still under investigation.”
Arson is suspected, High Prairie RCMP S/Sgt. Warren Wright says.
“RCMP were advised by the fire department that the fire was suspicious in origin,” Wright says.
Police started a criminal investigation to identify points of entry into the building, collect evidence and speak to witnesses.
RCMP can not comment any further as the investigation to identify those responsible continues, Wright says.
The building has been vacant since the new High Prairie Health Complex east of town opened in April 2017.
Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk hopes the incident adds fuel to the fire to convince the provincial government to demolish the old building owned by the Province of Alberta.
“The building is an eyesore, it’s taking up prime land and it’s a hazard,” Panasiuk says.
“That fire and several break-ins prove that.”
He says he and council will add pressure to the new United Conservative Party government to level the building.
“We worked hard to lobby the former NDP government,” Panasiuk says.
“Now we have to start working to lobby the current government.
“We’ve got to make it a priority for the government.”
The old hospital and former J.B. Wood Continuing Care home is located on 10.46 acres of land, town CAO Brian Martinson says.
Cisaroski says damage is estimated at $250,000.
“The fire was in a hallway in one of the wings of the building,” says Cisaroski.
“We knocked the fire down quickly and it was under control in about 30 minutes.”
Firefighters searched the rest of the building for people or any other spots for fires, he says.
Thick black smoke from the tar on the roof was seen for many kilometres around the site.
Enilda and Grouard fire crews from Big Lakes County Fire Service assisted in the call.
Crews were on the scene until 6:30 p.m.
Cisaroski commended fire crews for their effort to battle the blaze.
“Our firefighters were fantastic in their response and actions,” Cisaroski says.
“Town residents can rest assured that they have some awesome people in the fire department.”
He also says it’s always great to have a good working relationship with Big Lakes County.
The fire attracted many onlookers, which caused some problems. Cisaroski reminds people to stay back from the site of an emergency and obey all peace officers directing traffic.
Also, Cisaroski advises motorists not to drive over fire hoses.
Police are asking for help. Anyone with information on the incident is requested to phone High Prairie RCMP at  523-3370.
For those who want to remain anonymous, they can contact Crime Stoppers by phone at [1-800] 222-8477 [TIPS] or by e-mail to tipssubmint.com or on the website at crimestoppers.ab.ca.