By: THE CANADIAN PRESS
KINDERSLEY, Sask. - Officials in Kindersley, Sask., declared a local emergency Friday as a massive fire ripped through a hockey arena and curling complex, sending hundreds of people attending a provincial curling championship into the cold.
Sherry Magnuson, the town's chief administrator, said firefighters were trying to save the newer part of the complex, which houses a hockey arena and curling rinks.
"Exhibition Stadium, which is the old skating arena, has burned to the ground," she said.
The newer and older portions of the facility are adjacent to one another and are connected by a common lobby, she said.
Students from a nearby school, residents and business people in the area were asked to leave as a precaution. They were urged to go to an Elks Hall on the west side of town and register with local officials.
"It's precautionary. We're concerned about if there might be a potential explosion with some of the chemicals that are at the arena, so we need to be cautious with that," Magnuson said.
Kindersley is about 120 kilometres west of Saskatoon.
Officials activated the municipality's emergency plan around 10 a.m. and set up a command centre at the town hall, just a couple of blocks from the burning building.
Firefighters from several surrounding communities were called in to help more than two dozen of the town's volunteer firefighters. Heavy equipment contractors were using backhoes to push apart some of the burning debris.
RCMP Sgt. Carole Raymond said only one person was taken to hospital.
"There is one person confirmed injured, with minor injuries. (They are) non-life threatening," she said.
RCMP were blocking off the area to allow firefighters to do their work, she said.
Bystanders said hundreds of people who were attending the provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts were forced to flee the curling rink when smoke began to drift through the facility.
Jill Shumay, who was curling with the Patty Hersikorn rink from Saskatoon, said there was no sense of panic when the fire alarm went off, even though they could smell smoke.
"There's a big mess and huge smoke damage. It was very smoky when we were evacuating already," she said.
At one point tall flames could be seen shooting into the air above the complex.
Regina curler Michelle Englot, who wasn't scheduled to be on the ice at the time, said she found out about the blaze from other players. It wasn't the first time that curlers attending the provincial championships had heard fire alarms go off in the facility.
"There were two alarms that went off during (Thursday's) games," she said. Shumay said they turned out to be false alarms.
The two arenas are at the centre of life in the community. One of the arenas is home to the Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The heavy damage will be very difficult for residents to take, Magnuson said.
"(They are) the heart beat of the community so this is really shocking and devastating for us. It's going to have quite an impact," she said.
Englot said while team clothing may have been lost, she hoped their curling shoes hadn't gone up in smoke.
"Shoes are a little more difficult to replace and break in," she said.
-By Lisa Arrowsmith in Edmonton
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