The main building of Hornby Island’s longstanding Sea Breeze Lodge is now a pile of charred rubble, after fire ravaged the popular resort Sunday evening.
The lodge’s 16 cabins were left intact and no one was injured, but the main building housing the dining area, kitchen, offices and laundry facilities burned to the ground.
“It is a huge piece (of Hornby),” owner Stephen Bishop said Tuesday morning, noting the lodge opened in 1948. “It’s pretty tragic for so many people here.”
The Hornby Island Fire Department was called out at 8:10 p.m. Sunday. Deputy chief Doug Chinnery was first on-scene and said the entire front side of the building was fully engulfed in flames when he arrived.
Explosions rocked the lodge into the evening, according to Chinnery, who pointed out the restaurant had combustibles like carbon dioxide cylinders for its pop machines and 20-pound propane cylinders hooked up to the heating system. As well, vehicles parked near the building caught fire and their struts and car tires were blowing up as firefighters were putting out the blaze.
“The fuel load made it a pretty big fire,” said Chinnery. “We were happy that we were able to contain it to just that building, and protect the outbuildings.”
Bishop’s daughter Carlyn was having dinner in the restaurant when the fire started.
“I came in for dinner with my friends … and we were halfway through dessert when our bartender Amber came out and said there was a fire,” recalled Carlyn. “I kind of thought it was a joke at first or just a small fire, grabbed some things and went outside, and half of the building was on fire already.
“Everyone got out of there so quick that I wasn’t ever scared for my safety — it was just really, really, really hard to watch, really tragic.”
Fire chief Giff La Rose said Tuesday there is still no clear indication of how the fire started but the cause is not suspicious, and the investigation is ongoing.
Stephen said plans to build a temporary kitchen and dining area are already forming, as the busy tourist season is just beginning and he has a number of weddings booked in June.
“Our first wedding’s on the 14th of June and we plan to be set up, ready to go, and do that one,” he said. “The cabins are still available; we’ll make it happen no matter what. Weddings are a huge, huge thing for Sea Breeze here and our family, and we definitely want to honour what we’ve committed to and make it happen.”
He added support from Hornby’s community has been outstanding.
“It’s been amazing how many people have come over and visited and offered their help, volunteers, so it’s quite incredible,” he said.
Stephen’s parents bought the resort in 1972, and he and his wife took over operations from his parents 21 years ago. His brother then came on board 12 years ago, and the two couples have run the business since then.
Reservation records were destroyed in the fire, so Stephen asks anyone with reservations to call 250-335-2321 to reconfirm.
— With files from CTV Vancouver Island