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Guests displaced by Banff hotel fire touched by local generosity

Guests who were forced out of a Banff hotel early Thursday morning as a fire ripped through the roof and gutted the top floor are slowly getting their belongings returned to them.

Blaze ripped through roof and top floor of Mount Royal Hotel early Thursday morning

Guests who were forced out of a Banff hotel early Thursday morning as a fire ripped through the roof and gutted the top floor are slowly getting their belongings back.

Michael Gee, who arrived in Banff with his family about a week ago, says it was his father who woke him up to alert him of the fire.

"I slept all the way through it, it was my parents a few doors down that came and knocked on my door. When we woke up you could smell the smoke and everybody was rushing to get out," said Gee.

Michael Gee, left, says Banff locals offered boots and clothing to stay warm after the Thursday morning fire. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

He says the generosity of Banff residents really made things easier, and warmer.

"We were lucky for the people who came out and gave us stuff," Gee said. "There were actual Canadian people who donated their stuff just to get us warm." 

The hotel owners also stepped up.

Nicola Rawnson and her partner got all of their belongings back just in time to get on their way to make their flight home. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"They gave everybody $100 each for the day and now we are waiting this afternoon because they told us they are going to do a sweep of the rooms to see what is salvageable. We are hoping we will get some clothes back, even if they smell a little."

Nicola Rawnson and her partner had to catch a flight late Friday and were grateful to retrieve all of their stuff in time.

"Slightly relieved, more relieved when we get on the plane but very happy and really grateful that everyone has done all that they can to help out," Rawnson said.

Cleanup continues in the lobby of the Mount Royal Hotel in Banff after an early morning fire Thursday. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Nearly 300 guests were evacuated from the Mount Royal Hotel on Banff Avenue after the fire was spotted around 2:30 a.m. Many of them were forced to head outside wearing just their bedclothes.

The guests were all moved to other hotels in Banff.

Hotel spokesman Mark Hendrikse says fire officials have allowed access to some rooms, and guests are being contacted as their belongings are retrieved.

Officials say the fire is out and recovering guest belongings is now the focus. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"We're documenting where these items are coming from, what rooms, and we'll be matching them and either hand-delivering to individuals who still remain in Banff or shipping them to their home address if they've already moved on in their journey," he said.

Hotel spokeswoman Joanna Buckingham says the people of Banff have rallied to help the displaced visitors.

"We have been overwhelmed by support from the local community, including many businesses and organizations," she said.

Hotel officials are working to connect owners with their luggage and belongings. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"For example, the Banff Canmore Community Foundation has accepted clothing donations and has been working to ensure these are provided to our guests that are in need."

The Red Cross is also set up at the Banff Canmore Community Foundation providing assistance, including one-time funding for emergency clothing purchases if needed.

Fire officials say they will be combing through the historic hotel for days to find the cause of the fire. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

Fire officials say they will be combing through the historic hotel for days to find the cause of the fire.

Crews are still dealing with hotspots at the hotel, said Banff Fire Department Deputy Chief Mike Geisle.

Repairs to the hotel are expected to take months. The building also houses a number of retail shops on the ground floor, which have closed because of water damage.

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