the national burns- march 1984

by underswansea


Spent the day going through books, photographs, negatives and papers. The house was turned upside down during the renovation. Lisa and I are trying to organize and scale back (wherever possible).

We made some headway. Deciding what books to keep is terribly stressful.

Here is a newspaper clipping my father saved about the old National Hotel burning in Radium. It’s not often the Valley makes the front page of the Calgary Herald.

Radium landmark leveled by flames


Photo to Michael Patterson
By Yvonne Zacharias – Herald staff writer
Monday, March 19th, 1984

Fire inspectors will begin searching today through shouldering ashes to find a cause for a towering blaze which destroyed the landmark Steamboat Inn in Radium, BC, Sunday.

A chimney and a sign are all that is left of the popular watering hole.

Harvey Palmer, deputy chief of the Radium volunteer fire department, estimated 300 and 400 spectators – including many travelllers on Highway93 which was blocked by fireman for about two hours – gathered to watch the inferno.

“It could be seen for miles around.”

Palmer said the fire started in the northeast area of a cabaret, which also contains an electrical panel for the hotel.

He said the cabaret, reserved for special functions, was vacant at the time.

The volunteer department got the call at about 11 am, but there were reports of an earlier fire alarm which patrons assumed was false. Palmer also suspects that residents tried to put out the fire themselves.

“It was going pretty good before we got the call,” he said, adding firemen feel the might have had a chance if they been called even half an hour earlier.

The three-story hotel, formerly called the National Park Hotel, was old and it went “very quickly.”

Radium’s nine volunteer firemen and two trucks were helped by 10 firemen who brought a truck from nearby Invermere and four men, including the fire chief, from Windermere. The fire chief from Edgewater also pitched in.

For a while, ‘we thought we had someone trapped inside.” But it was later discovered the female occupant was out at a party and none of the residents were injured in the blaze, though Palmer said there were some minor injuries among firemen.

There were “mixed feelings” when the hotel was destroyed, Palmer said. “let’s put it this way – a lot of mothers were happy,” referring to the hotel’s reputation as a drinking spot.

Walter Spiess, owner of the Sunset Motel in Radium, said the hotel burned intensely for about an hour and a half and then it was gone. Now, “it’s just a hole in the ground.”