Firefighters attempt to contain the structural blaze Monday morning at the Skyline Truck Stop.

Firefighters attempt to contain the structural blaze Monday morning at the Skyline Truck Stop.

Fire destroys popular highway truck stop

Firefighters contain blaze, prevent explosion at Skyline Truck Stop in Craigellachie.

A Craigellachie landmark is no more.

The Skyline Truck Stop, a popular hub among locals and travellers alike, burned down Monday, Nov. 2.

Upset by the loss, Malakwa Fire Chief Joanne Held called the business a local hub and respected employer.

“It employed, at any given time, at least 10 residents of Malakwa , some of them who worked there almost 25 years or more,” said Held. “In the high summer they employed more locals. It was a definite hub and we’re very sorry to see it gone.”

Skyline owner Lyle Hainstock was unavailable to comment before press time.

Low lying cloud in the mountains of the Eagle Pass contrasted with the thick black smoke that filled the air Monday morning as firefighters engaged in a battle to contain the fire at the service station/convenience store/restaurant on the Trans-Canada Highway near the North Fork Bridge.

Firefighters were called to the scene shortly after 9 a.m., with Malakwa firefighters arriving soon after.

“A crew of mine was on scene by 9:29, and at that point there was already heavy black smoke emitting from the roof,” said Held, noting a call was immediately made for mutual aid from the Sicamous and Swansea Point fire departments. Firefighters didn’t enter the building until mutual aid arrived.

Held said she arrived on the scene about an hour later. Eyeing up the situation, she immediately ordered firefighters out of the building. At this point, it was evident the structure couldn’t be saved.

“Every fire is different and it’s hard to predict what it’s going to do and every 30 seconds, the fire doubles in size, so if it was already in the walls and the roof when the call came in.  It doesn’t take long for a fire to take hold and take off,” said Held. “In a perfect world, it would be great if we were on scene the second a fire started, but we all know it’s not a perfect world.”

Held said the focus was then placed on an exterior attack, which included protecting the gas pumps, propane tank and the nearby tire shop.

“When they did exit the building, they hit the emergency shut-off to the gas tanks,” said Held, explaining there was still a risk as gas would still have been in the pumps, and the tank beneath them. “We managed to keep it cool, and the propane tank that was behind the building, we kept that from exploding.  The tire shop, which is four feet from the building, it got a little bit scorched but it’s still standing.”

The fire is believed to have been caused by a space heater in an office on the second floor. From there, the blaze spread quickly to the roof. Held said the blaze was exacerbated by the various automotive chemicals in the structure.

No one was reported to have been injured, though there were a lot of tired firefighters early Tuesday morning.

“We left the scene this morning (Nov. 3)… I’m assuming we were here at the hall by about 1:30,” said Held. “I had a member back on the scene at about 7:30 this morning, and a few crews just went back right now to do a little bit of mop up and pick up the rest of our gear.”

Because the building remains dangerous to enter, with a risk of the cinder block walls collapsing, Held couldn’t say when an investigation will commence.