History Column: The 1967 Fire

History Column by Craig Baird

Firefighter carries woman over water. Submitted/ Craig Baird.

Firefighter carries woman over water. Submitted/ Craig Baird.

Fires have a way of remaking entire communities. They can be highly destructive but they bring in new buildings and businesses that help the community years down the road. They also typically bring in new laws that prevent such fires years down the road.

One such fire in the Wetaskiwin area happened on Feb. 13, 1967 when a fire destroyed one of the oldest buildings in the community.

At 1:30 a.m. flames began to appear in Aboussafy building that had been built in 1912 and changed hands several times over the years. Shortly afterwards, the five firefighting units of the community showed up and they would fight it for seven hours., keeping it from spreading too far in the community.

It was believed the fire was started in the basement but no cause was determined.

The post office located next door to the building was damaged but survived the flames thanks to the firefighters who spent all day fighting the fire. A 16-inch thick wall on the other side of the building protected a store and a small creek formed between the two buildings from the amount of water that firefighters were using to contain the fire. With temperatures well below zero, the entire block was covered in thick ice.

Most of the building had been destroyed by 8 a.m. and there was little that could be done as 24 firefighters did what they could to save the rest of the community.

The fire was the worst to hit Wetaskiwin since 1958 when a fire had destroyed Wetaskiwin Motors.

The building’s owner had only bought the building five years previous and he lost everything inside but thankfully part of it was covered by insurance.

— Craig Baird

I put out a history magazine that highlights many aspects of Canadian history. It is free and is delivered to your inbox. E-mail me to subscribe at craig@canadaehx.com