A fire that threatened an 11-storey Kenora, Ont., hotel Friday afternoon nearly took another victim as it spread across the bottom of the building: the Grey Cup.
City of Kenora fire Chief Todd Skene said crews didn't realize until after the blaze at the Clarion Lakeside Inn was under control that the Canadian Football League championship trophy was on the premises.
"We don't find out about that stuff until a little bit later. We're busy dealing with the scene and everything else that's going on at the time," he said.
Skene said that when the building was evacuated a Winnipeg Blue Bombers player carried the trophy out to his vehicle.
"The Grey Cup is safe," Skene said.
Bombers spokesperson Darren Cameron confirmed that a few community relations staff members and Bombers fullback John Rush were in the hotel with the Grey Cup when the fire started and that everyone — and the trophy — got out safely.
The incident comes a few months after the Bombers brought the cup home broken after winning the CFL championship in Calgary.
Skene said the cup was touring the city, which is about 50 kilometres from the Manitoba border, to give Kenora fans a chance to see the trophy. The Bombers ended a decades-long championship drought in November.
Skene said now that the fire has been put out, he hopes the cup will be brought back one more time for the fire crews.
"Maybe it'll come back, and maybe we can get some pictures here in Kenora with it," said Skene. "That would be nice."
'Very, very proud of our crew'
Skene said crews responded to the call of a fire around 3:15 p.m. CT Friday. When they arrived at the hotel, heavy smoke was already billowing out. Flames had spread across the underside of the building and started moving up its sides. A car in the parking lot also caught fire, he said.
Skene said crews had eight trucks and 30 firefighters rolling in from all three of the city's fire stations.
Winds of about 50 km/h on Friday helped fan the fire and made it spread quickly, creating a challenge for firefighters.
"I am very, very proud of our crew," Skene said. "They got there quickly, and were in action quickly. I know they're quite proud of the job they did on their end, and being able to limit the damage based on what we were facing at the beginning."
He said the 30 or so people staying at the hotel were moved to a nearby community centre to stay warm and are now staying in other hotels. The fire was declared under control around 6:30 p.m., and crews stayed on scene until about 9 p.m.
"Everybody got out. That's the main thing, right?" said Skene. "Human life is the major thing, and despite the temperatures and the blowing snow and the high winds … everybody is safe."
Skene said no cause or damage estimate of the fire have been determined. He said it will be a few days before power is restored to the hotel, which had its natural gas shut off and was flooded by a sprinkler.