Driver alert saved a gas station and restaurant near Waskesiu from a fire that destroyed a motel

An alert from a passing driver helped prevent a fire that destroyed his motel from spreading to his other businesses, the grateful owner said Thursday.

Hong Cam, owner of LT’s Food and Fuel at the intersection of Highway 2 North and Highway 264, better known as the exit to Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park, told CBC News that He was working at the gas station around 1 p.m. Wednesday when a driver came from the freeway and said the motel next door — which Cam also owns — was on fire.

“I was just surprised and said, ‘Oh, really?’ So I walked out with the customer and saw smoke coming up from the back,” Cam said.

Photos and video of the fire, uploaded by a passerby, show large plumes of black smoke and flickering flames near LT’s main building.

“If the customer on the freeway didn’t notice it, we don’t even know. The main section may have burned as well,” Cam said.

The main building, which is physically separate from the 12-room motel, includes the gas station, restaurant, and living quarters where Cam’s wife slept at the time.

They all phoned and called if we needed food…and expressed concern. So we really appreciate and are very grateful to all the people here.– Hong Cam, owner of LT’s Food and Fuel

Cam said she got out safely, along with her brother who was in the main kitchen. The motel, which was empty at the time, had served overnight travelers and short-term workers in the area.

Plumes of black smoke and flames seen from the highway near LT’s Food and Fuel at the turnoff to Waskesiu on Wednesday. (Gail Gelsinger/Facebook)

In a statement Wednesday, the Lakeland Fire Department called the motel a “total loss,” adding that the tireless work of firefighters kept the flames from spreading.

Cam says he has no idea how the fire started. Authorities are investigating his cause. Claims adjusters were due to visit the site on Thursday.

Cam said he was grateful no one was hurt and much of his business survived. He was also moved by the outpouring of support from nearby residents.

“They all phone and call if we need food…and they’ve expressed concern. So we really appreciate and are very grateful to everyone here,” he said.

Cleanup is now underway at the site, which Cam hopes to have completed by the start of the summer season for Waskesiu.

A motel burns next to LT’s Food and Fuel, a well-known gas station and restaurant near Prince Albert National Park, on Wednesday. (Tony Mack/Facebook)

LT is an important stop: Mayor of La Ronge

Aside from tourists, LT’s food and fuel is a major lifeline for people driving along the corridor to northern Saskatchewan.

There is currently only one other gas station, in the hamlet of Weyakwin, along approximately 200 kilometers of Highway 2 between the hamlet of Northside and the La Ronge area.

La Ronge Mayor Colin Ratushniak told CBC News on Thursday that he drove past LT just hours before the fire.

“LT is one of the staples along this highway…it would be pretty sad to see it go,” Ratushniak said.

The mayor noted that small gas stations in northern Saskatchewan often have limited hours, so LTs are an important place for people to access needed services.

Ratushniak also praised the work of the fire departments involved in controlling the blaze, adding that crews do not have direct access to fire hydrants in this area.

Alongside Lakeland, the Waskesiu Fire Department, Buckland Fire Rescue, Montreal Lake Fire Department, OSS Water Hauling and SPSA Weyakwin Fire Base were also involved in the response.

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