By Marianne Curtis
Residents in Woodridge are mourning the loss of the community’s main meeting spot after an early morning fire destroyed the town`s only resturant on December 13.
Officials at the RM of Piney confirmed that the Woodridge Inn near Woodridge was destroyed by fire early in the morning. Twenty fire fighters from three volunteer fire departments responded to the blaze which started about 12:30 AM but the structure was fully engulfed by the time fire crews arrived. Witnesses say flames were shooting thirty feet into the air.
Every winter, the Woodridge Inn became a major pit stop for snowmobilers out to enjoy the pristine Sandilands Forest but for the people in the area, this was more than a restaurant. Over the years it had become the heart of the community that has a population of about 100 residents.
Sandra Gigolyk an employee at the Woodridge Inn watched in shock as fire crews searched for hotspots thirteen hours after the blaze started.
“We have regulars that come and go sometimes two to three times a day – they come in and talk to each other and keep in touch,” stated Gigolyk. “It was where people would meet.”
Her 78 eighty year old grandmother Roberta Gigolyk concurred. She has been coming to the restaurant every day for the past year and she says that without it, things will not be the same.
“Once you start going out to lunch and meeting people you miss it,” Gigolyk added. “It’s a big loss”
Woodridge resident Terry Rousseau added that “for a small town, this is a disaster.”
On a popular Internet meeting place for snowmobiles riders familiar with the area and the establishment posters empathized with the community’s loss. “This is a terrible thing for the snowmobile industry. (It was a) great little place to stop along the way – this will be a big hit to the area,” posted one visitor.
RM of Piney reeve Duane Boutang says that the blaze is going to hurt the community.
“The Woodridge Inn was one of our major businesses in the area,” Boutang stated. “There is no alternative other than maybe South Junction and Sprague.”
Damages are estimated at about $1 million and there is still no word on if owners will be rebuilding.
Fire crews look for hotspots while what is left of the Woodridge Inn still smoulders thirteen hours after the blaze started.