The quick action of neighbours might have saved the lives of the owners of the Hitching Post in Hedley as fire completely destroyed their livelihood and home in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Viktorya Bratt, a nearby resident, said she and her husband Mike Galics were woken up at about 2:20 a.m. by the sound of her friend who lived across the street yelling “fire, fire.”
“I opened the window and looked out and we saw tonnes of smoke billowing out of the Hitching Post. I called for my husband and woke him up and told him to grab a ladder,” she said.
Bratt said by the time she arrived the restaurant was engulfed in flames.
“By the time I made it over they (Mike and another Hedley resident Tim) were standing at the window begging and pleading with them to jump. My husband caught their dog and we started begging and pleading with them to jump. He jumped first and then she jumped second and Mike tried to brace her fall. Mike and another neighbour used blankets and pulled to safety.”
The couple laid in the back of a pickup truck waiting for an ambulance. The ambulance took about 40 minutes to arrive. They were both transported to hospital. The extent of their injuries are not known at this time. The dog lived and only suffered singes to his fur.
The couple bought the restaurant earlier this year and lived in a second floor living area.
Doug Nimchuk, assistant fire chief said by the time the fire department arrived the Hitching Post was engulfed.
“I was on my way down to the hall on my bicycle and the building was fully engulfed at that time. The flames were shooting out of the big front windows, like six by eight foot front windows. All the windows were blown out and the flames were shooting out the front,” he said.
He said the owners were already out of the building by the time the fire department got on scene.
Approximately 10 firefighters worked the scene for more than nine hours.
One firefighter was taken to hospital and was treated for smoke inhalation.
Nimchuk said although it was considered the decision was made not to call in other nearby fire departments Keremeos or Princeton because there were 10 local firefighters on the ground.
“Being that it was a building all by itself except for one other exposure (house) and we did knock it down and saved that exposure or house so I’m happy with that,” he said.
Factors involved in making the decision was the number of firefighters on scene. At that point seven or eight firefigters
He noted there was no wind and temperatures were not cold.
The loss of the Hitching Post will have big impact on the community, he said.
“I’m very sad for sure. Definitely a big piece of Hedley gone,” he said.
The Hitching Post building was built in 1903 as a one floor building. Soon a second story was added and used as a Masonic dance hall. Over the years the main floor has served the community as the Hedley Trading Co. & Mining Supplies and Collens Department Store before sitting empty for several decades. The building was fixed up in the 1970s and turned into a restaurant first opening under the name the Golden Nickel. For a time the building was used as a private club for the One Way Foundation and then reopened as a restaurant under the name the Hitching Post.