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Baker Creek Bistro goes up in flames

Banff and Lake Louise fire crews battled a fire that broke out at the popular Bistro restaurant at Baker Creek in the early hours of Sunday morning.

LAKE LOUISE – A fire that broke out at Baker Creek Mountain Resort during the early morning hours of Sunday (July 25) destroyed the Bistro restaurant building.

Several staff were in the log building at the time of the blaze, which the general manager said is believed to have started in the attic about 3:30 a.m.. Baker Creek is located about 13-kilometres east of Lake Louise along the Bow Valley Parkway.

“The building is a total loss, and some team members who live in the accommodation unit above the restaurant lost everything,” said James Hague, general manager of Baker Creek Mountain Resort.

“Fortunately, there was no loss of life, no injuries, and everyone is safe.”

Fire crews from Banff and Lake Louise responded to the scene to try to save the popular Baker Creek Bistro, formerly known as the Cabin Café, as flames ripped through the log building.

With the fire hazard rated as extreme in Banff National Park and a fire ban in place, a  Parks Canada initial attack crew from Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit was also called to the scene. Banff EMS and Lake Louise RCMP also attended.

Lake Louise deputy fire chief Gordon Wagstaff said the cause of the fire is unknown and remains under investigation. There will be no further comments on the investigation at this point.

He said the department received reports of a structure fire shortly before 4 a.m..

“We responded and found a fully involved structure fire,” Wagstaff said, noting there is significant damage to the building. “We got the fire knocked down around noon and worked throughout Sunday and into the evening working on hotspots.”

Silvio Adamo, the Town of Banff’s fire chief and director of emergency management, said eight Banff firefighters responded.

He said Banff took a pump truck and 3,500-gallon water tender.

“We worked with Lake Louise until it was extinguished… it took several hours,” Adamo said.

“There were some water issues… we were having to draft out of the creek to provide water and that’s why we also brought our water tender out.”

Hague said fire crews couldn’t get into the burned building on Sunday, but planned to do a top-down assessment on Monday.

“They’re bringing in their man-lift to do a visual inspection and a backhoe to peel back pieces of the building to see what they can determine,” he said.

Hague was thankful to the Lake Louise community for rallying behind the staff members – three men and three women  who lost everything in the fire – by donating clothes and personal items.

He said he also wanted to thank Banff and Lake Louise fire departments for their efforts, noting “they were amazing.”

“There were trees right next to the Bistro that could have easily spread to our building, where my family lives, and it didn’t,” Hague said.

“They stopped it just at the Bistro, which was miraculous in my opinion, because flames were shooting right out at the pine trees and they didn’t go up.”

The resort was operational by end of day Monday, but Hague said he expects it will be several weeks to a month before food and beverage can be offered.

He said the conference centre kitchen will need to be converted into a facility that can handle the volume in the interim.

“Insurance will cover everything; it’s just going to take some time,” he said.

The last 18 months have been incredibly hard for businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including restaurants who were forced to shut their doors at certain times under provincial public health orders.

Baker Creek also recently completed a major sewer system upgrade and completed renovations to Elk Lodge last month.

“And now the Bistro is gone,” Hague said. “It’s been one thing after another. Life is certainly interesting.”

Baker Creek Chalets are believed to have been built around 1949 as an overnight stop on the scenic Banff-Lake Louise coach road, which was the original Trans-Canada Highway now known as the Bow Valley Parkway.

Sightseeing tourists, adventurous travellers and hikers journeying to and from Lake Louise and Jasper would stop at the restaurant – a tradition that has continued for decades.