The community of Cartwright is in shock. Last week, the Cartwright Hotel, which had been a family business for nearly 25 years, burned completely to the ground.
Not only was it the only major hotel in the community, with 19 rooms, but it also housed the only conference room and dine-in restaurant. The town still has the Northside Motel, but it has just six rooms, and no space for conferences or receptions. The Northside also has a small pub and take out service, but no dine -in restaurant.
"It's everything to this community basically," says Cartwright Mayor Rosetta Holwell. "There's nothing that that hotel doesn't cover."
"I was in shock," says Holwell about hearing of the fire. "It's such a major service centre for such a small community. There are such a lot of services just from that. The economy is affected and the community is affected."
The cause of the fire is still not known, at this time. No one was in the building at the time the fire started.
The hotel's owner and operator, Dwight Lethbridge, discovered the fire when he was driving to the hotel. Lethbridge says when he realized what was happening, he was shocked.
"I discovered it when I went to work...by the time I got there, it was just engulfed," says Lethbridge. "It was shock, I almost went off the road. I tried to turn around and I almost slid off the road."
The volunteer fire brigade was not able to get close enough to the fire to fight it, since a lot of propane was stored nearby. The risk of an explosion was too dangerous, and everyone had to stand back while the hotel burned.
"I knew that was going to be the case," says Lethbridge. "I told them (the firefighters), when they arrived that we had nearly 8,000 litres of propane stored behind the hotel."
Lethbridge also operates a gas bar across from the hotel. Luckily, the wind was blowing away from the gas station, so it was spared from the fire.
Since the firefighters couldn't put the fire out, Lethbridge could only watch as his family business was scorched.
"We sat and watched from about 500, 600, metres away...what can you do?"
It's troubling times for Lethbridge and his family, but the community has responded with an outpouring of support.
"It's been fantastic," says Lethbridge. "The phone hasn't stopped ringing, facebook is viral. It's been a big outpouring."
It's also a hard time for those in the community who were employed by the hotel. Melody Pardy has worked there for the past 20 years. A day after the building burned down, the reality was still sinking in.
"It's almost hard to comprehend yet," says Pardy. "I just went in and saw it for the first time since it happened...I could still see where everything was. I could see the bar sink, and I could see my kitchen sink, and I could see the coolers."
Pardy isn't sure what she will do for employment in the short term.
"It's not something in my mind right now. I think I need to realize that I don't have this job anymore. It's really hard for me to even think about that right now," says Pardy. "I will come to terms with it, hopefully, soon. Right now I'm jobless...I certainly have plans to go back there if Dwight builds it again."
Everybody in Cartwright is hoping that Lethbridge and his family will rebuild the hotel, especially since it was a vital hub for the community. But Lethbridge says nothing is certain at the moment. For him and his family, this is new territory.
"Nothing is definite at this point, we got to work with the insurance company. I've never gone through an insurance claim before, so I don't know what to expect really," he said.