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Devastating fire leaves big hole in Malakwa community

Fire broke out Monday, Nov. 2 at the Skyline Truck Stop in Malakwa.
Image Credit: Twitter/ @MOHRwc
November 04, 2015 - 2:30 PM

MALAKWA - Those who visited the Skyline Truck Stop in Malakwa always left with a full tank, and a full belly.

The popular roadside gas station, machine shop and restaurant was a fixture in the rural Shuswap community for decades, and while a devastating fire wiped out the building earlier this week, it hasn’t erased the memories.

Malakwa fire chief Joanne Held, who fought the roaring fire Monday, Nov. 2, will never forget the Skyline mexi-burger, piled with salsa, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese.

“You never left there hungry,” she says.

A key stop for truck drivers and tourists making the trek along Highway 1, the business was also a cherished watering hole for locals.

“It was a local hub for people wanting to grab a coffee and a piece of pie. You’d head to the Skyline,” Held says.

The loss has left a significant gap in the community. There’s another gas station not too far away, but not many other places to get a meal in Malakwa. 

“That alone will impact a lot of people,” Held says.

Eating breakfast was what several patrons were doing Monday morning around 9 a.m. when the owners evacuated the building at the first signs of smoke.

“The employer made sure everyone was out of the building and shut off power to the gas,” Held says.

Between the restaurant, gas station and mechanics shop, the Skyline employs between 10-15 people who are now out of work.

Flames first appeared in the upstairs office where it’s believed a space heater or electrical malfunction might have sparked the blaze. Malakwa volunteer firefighters, with backup from Sicamous and Swansea Point, hit the fire hard, spraying it for hours with water sucked from the nearby river.

With the roof in bad shape, Held made the call to fight the fire from the outside to keep her team out of danger. Saving the building was not possible, and efforts were instead directed at protecting other structures and people. With a number of propane and gasoline tanks on site, as well as the tire shop, the danger was very real, Held says.

“Nobody was hurt, everybody made it out. I’m quite proud of all three fire departments and the owners for making sure everyone was out safely,” Held says.

What remains of the building is a sorry sight of debris and the memory of what once was. For Held, the loss is personal.

“I worked there for many years as a cook, waitress and at the gas bar. We ran it as a family business. It hits home,” she says.

Her family sold the business to the current owners about 25 years ago.

We were unable to reach the owners for an interview, but they posted the following notice on their Facebook page. It is unknown if they will rebuild. 

“So I am sorry to say we will be closed until further notice. I personally want to thank all our loyal truckers, some who have been coming here for many years. All our loyal customers from here in Malakwa and Craigellachie…. thank you for making us one of your stops on the highway for gas, food or just some goodies and a break from driving...We so appreciate your loyalty all these years. I’m going to keep this page going in memory of one of the greatest little truck stops ever. If anyone wants to add some pictures or comments of your stops here please feel to do so and you can post your prayers and thoughts to Lyall and Charlene here as well. Again...thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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