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Writer David Adams Richards says he has fond memories of the Miramichi Opera House, which was destroyed by fire on the weekend. ((Submitted by Gary Tozer))

New Brunswick author David Adams Richards says Miramichi and his family have both lost a piece of their heritage after a weekend fire destroyed the Miramichi Opera House nightclub.

The century-old building went up in flames Saturday night in the northern New Brunswick city.

The Opera House was operating as a movie theatre when two generations of the Richards family owned it from the late 1930s to the early 1980s.

Richards, who lives in Fredericton now, said he was alerted to the fire by a relative.

"My cousin … sent me an email and said she could smell the smoke all the way to her house, so I knew it was bad," Richards said.

"I was hoping initially that the fire could be contained, that it was … maybe in the back of something. But then I realized soon after that no, it was going to go."

Richards said he has fond early memories of visiting his uncle while he worked in the projection booth.

"I used to climb the two, three flights of stairs to go where my great uncle ran the pictures and I remember that very well," he said. "So I remember those old days."

The well-known Canadian author said the loss of the Opera House leaves another hole in Miramichi's stock of heritage buildings. Along with the Opera House, Richards said the Miramichi has lost several historical buildings in recent years.

"It was a very proud old building and it's sad to see it go. It's bad for the community but it's also bad for our family as well."

Investigators probe fire

Investigators for both insurers of the building and the Miramichi fire department were sifting through the charred remains of the building on Monday.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

When Miramichi firefighters first arrived on the scene, they were driven back by heavy smoke and high heat.

John Mather, the fire chief, said this was when they decided to fight the blaze as a defensive fire.

"What we mean by a defensive fire is we weren't putting anybody in the interior," Mather said. "We were more or less fighting it from the outside and protecting the exposures that were around the building."