'Angry fire' destroys historic Cape Breton inn in Baddeck

An early-morning fire has destroyed the main building at the historic Inverary Resort in Baddeck, N.S.

'It was the most devastating, destructive force I have ever seen,' woman living near the inn says

Main building at the Inverary Inn Resort destroyed 0:36

An early-morning fire has destroyed the main building at the historic Inverary Resort in Baddeck, N.S.

The Inn has been on the shores of Bras d'Or Lakes in the picturesque village since the 1800s, according to the resort's website. The four-hectare site was bought by two brothers who opened it as an inn after WW II, and it was eventually passed on in 1971 to the MacAulay family, who have run it ever since.  

Over the years, new buildings were added and the inn was expanded to a full resort. 

Now, the original inn is a pile of smouldering rubble following the fire that started around 2 a.m. local time.   

Officials have said having a working hydrant in front of the resort wouldn't have changed the outcome. (Yvonne Leblanc-Smith/CBC)

The main building has a dining room, kitchen and reception area, and some rooms, all of which have been destroyed, according to the Baddeck Volunteer Fire Department.   

The cabins at the resort and other guest accommodations at the site have been spared.

Fire Chief Darren MacAulay, who is not related to the inn's owner, said the building was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. 

"A raging fire, a room full of fire with flames going through the roof." 

MacAulay said no one was injured. It's not clear how many people were in the building. 

Four other fire departments had to be called in but it still took hours to subdue the fire. He said the fire department remained on the scene Thursday morning to put out hot spots. 

"The main structure of the complex is burnt, is down, is toast."

'Very big loss ... too many of them in the last couple of years,' says fire chief Darren MacAulay 1:06

Diana Weeks and her husband Matt, who were travelling through the Maritimes, were in the main lodge when it caught fire.

Weeks awoke around 2 a.m. to the sound of a fire alarm outside her room. At first she and her husband thought it was  a false alarm — Weeks said she had poked her head out of her room and saw nothing out of place. 

"About five minutes later, we heard someone running down the hallway pounding on the doors saying, 'There's a fire, there's a fire. Everyone get out, get out.'"

It took several fire departments a few hours to put out the blaze at the historic Inverary Resort in Baddeck, N.S. (Submitted by Tina Emi)

The couple threw on some clothes and got outside, where they saw sparks flying from part of the building. That's when Weeks and her husband decided to run back into the inn and get their luggage. She said it was safe to go in because the fire hadn't spread to their side of the building. About an hour later, the fire engulfed it. 

"By about 3:30 a.m., the entire building was up in flames and we watched our room just disintegrate," said Weeks.    

Tina Emi, who lives near the resort, arrived at the scene around 3 a.m. 

"Never in my entire life have I seen anything that will ever compare to this and will hopefully ever compare to this," she said in a phone interview.

The Inverary Resort before the fire, the main building was constructed in the 1800s. (novascotia.ca)

"It was destruction. You know, you hear people say an angry fire. It was an angry fire. It was the most devastating, destructive force I have ever seen in my entire life. You were watching the embers go up and actually rafters and everything, they would come down periodically." 

Fire Chief Darren MacAulay said it is too early to determine the cause of the fire, but it appears it started in the kitchen area.

Emi said the loss of such a historic building is a big blow to the small community.  

The main lodge of the Inverary Resort burned to the ground. (Submitted by Tina Emi)

"The saddest part really is the fact that it is a landmark, it's historic, it's an old building and it's gone it's gone forever. It's something that you can't replace, and that's really devastating. 

"You had loyal customers or clientele that came every year and everything," she said. "I mean this is going to hurt a lot of people." 

Firefighters couldn't open the hydrant in front of the main lodge at the Inverary Resort in Baddeck on the night it burned to the ground in June 2017. (Submitted by Tina Emi)

Matt MacAulay, operations manager at the site, said he woke up around 2 a.m. and could see light from the fire in the sky. He quickly got to the site and saw his family's property fully engulfed.

"The only thing we could do was make sure everyone was safe and as far away from the building as possible," he said.

MacAulay said the fire marshal is on site and they're hoping to get more information later today.

Despite losing the front desk, office, some rooms and the restaurant and pub, MacAulay said the resort remains operational.

After burning for several hours, the main building collapsed. (Submitted by Tina Emi)

Breakfast was served for guests whose rooms were in other buildings and MacAuley said staff is hopeful they'll be able to accommodate events booked at the site, including a wedding this weekend.

"We're certainly optimistic that we'll be able to fulfil all of our events this year."

The building that burned is fully insured but MacAulay said it's too soon to know what will happen with the site but the family intends to move forward.

"It is our family business."

With files from Maritime Noon, Gary Mansfield