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Loss of a landmark

Keremeos residents mourned the loss of a historic building as they went about their business on Tuesday.

The old Keremeos Hotel in the downtown area was destroyed by a fierce fire on Monday.

"Just the night before, people were eating and drinking there, and now it's gone," said Rob Pelletier, who runs the Main Event Boxing and MMA Studio and Hard Knuckles Cafe. "It's a surreal feeling and people are still reeling from it."

The fire started around 8:14 a.m. in the building, which housed the Red Bridge Pub, 7th Street Diner and a liquor store.

The Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department was on scene quickly, with mutual aid provided by the Osoyoos and Kaleden fire departments.

It was a challenging fire. Just after they started to attack the fire they had to pull crews out from the inside, because it was unsafe, says Keremeos Fire Chief Jordy Bosscha.

Crews battled it from the outside and eventually the building was demolished.

"When you have got a big pile of material burning, there is no way to get to the bottom. We would still be sitting there," said Bosscha.

Bosscha, like others, described the fire as a landscape altering event.

"It's going to leave a big hole in the town for sure," he said.

According to a museum attendant at the South Similkameen Museum, as far as can be determined, the building was built in 1907 by George Kirby and originally called the Keremeos Hotel.

It was later named the Keremeos Motor Inn, and most recently housed the pub, diner and liquor store.

The attendant described it as a huge loss of Keremeos history.

"It is very upsetting," she said. "To the best of my knowledge, it was the oldest building in the village."

Some residents said this fire, comes on top of others in the village in the past year.

"It is devastating, because there have been so many fires here," said Kelly Bickner, owner of the Fish and Chipper Curiosity Shop." We stayed up all night watching the last one on Main Street, and prior to that a restaurant burned on the corner."

Bickner had a personal attachment to the place. Her daughter worked there for 27 years as a bartender, and her son is in a band that was supposed to play at the pub.

"I'm sorry to see this loss of jobs and a landmark," she said. "Everyone patronized it, and it won't be the same without it."

John Bassani, with JB's Barber Shop, said it's a sad situation and an obvious loss.

"We lost another building recently, and we are anxious to see that rebuilt," he said. "This is another blow. If they rebuild it, Phoenix would be a good name, because it's rising from the ashes."

Some residents believe the fire may have been started by lightning, because they saw lightning strike and heard a loud bang, just prior to seeing smoke in the area.

But Bosscha, said Tuesday, the cause remains under investigation.

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