A fire that engulfed the top of the Salmo Hotel last week was the result of an electrical malfunction, according to its owner.
Ymir and Salmo’s fire departments responded to the blaze on Friday afternoon.
At the time crews were unable to identify what caused the fire but in a follow-up interview with the establishment’s owner, John Mirko revealed it is thought to have been the result of an electrical issue on the west side of the building.
Mirko also confirmed earlier reports that no one was occupying any of the hotel rooms at the time of the blaze, however there were two long-term renters living out of two of the suites who are now homeless.
As far as damage to the building is concerned, Mirko says fire investigator reports have led him to feel optimistic about restoration.
“The next steps are to assess the damage and see what’s going to be involved to repair it if it’s repairable and I have been getting messages indicating that it is repairable. So I just need to see what I think about that and what the insurance company thinks about it too.”
He says he’s waiting to hear back from his insurance company to discuss the costs associated with restoration, although he knows roof repairs will need to be done before business can resume to ensure there are no safety risks.
Mirko, a mining executive, has been the owner of the historic building for two years. He purchased the establishment to ensure the landmark wouldn’t be taken from the community.
“I bought it because of my history in the Kootenays. When COVID hit, the previous owner was having difficulties keeping it running. I was afraid that it might get boarded up, and I know that a lot of these communities knock these old buildings down and sell the land. So that was why I was a bit nervous that I’d be looking at another historic thing that would disappear.”
Being the history fanatic he is, Mirko said the purchase of the hotel was less about financial gain and more about preserving the hotel’s historic significance.
“I’m a prospector by trade and my first venture as an independent prospector was in Salmo back in 1976 and we used to frequent the Salmo Hotel bar at the end of the workday. I just love that building. It has people’s dreams and stories for everybody to see and it was important to preserve that. So I ended up buying it, and of course I don’t have any fantasies that I’m going to get rich running the hotel, but at least try to keep it operating.”
The hotel was built in 1931-32 on the site of a previous hotel that dated to 1896 but burned down. In 1981, it received a new façade that made it look older than it actually was.
Last week’s fire has left Mirko and his family feeling defeated. He explained that the business was finally starting to run smoothly after years of upgrades and improvements that he, his family, and his staff invested multiple resources into.
“It’s a devastation after myself, my team, my family and the town of Salmo has so much put so much into, trying to get the hotel back up and operating as a hotel, including the bar and the restaurant. We were almost within inches of getting that done with this fire happened.”
Mirko says it’s too soon to say when and if business will operate as usual but he’s grateful to the community for rallying behind him during this difficult time.
“This community is phenomenal; it brings tears to my eyes. It’s such a beautiful thing to see. The town of Salmo is putting together fundraisers and food baskets for employees who are laid off now. They are also raising money to help the two tenants in the building who lost their things too. It’s just crazy good.”