By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Hôtel du Parc Orford, located at the corner of Chemin du Parc and Chemin de la Montagne in Orford Township, caught fire late Monday evening.
The building’s roof is mostly charred and the fire gutted several rooms. The blaze caused significant structural damage with debris scattered around the building, and was covered in snow, when The Record arrived at the scene Tuesday morning.
According to the hotel’s owner, Zili Zhu, the fire erupted rather quickly, but it took a few minutes to realize exactly what was going on. It was 10 p.m. when the fire began to rage, but Zhu has trouble with his sight, especially when it gets dark outside.
“I checked around and I didn’t see a fire because the fire started at the other end. I couldn’t see because I wear glasses; I can’t see too far at night,” said Zhu, adding that the fire continued for roughly five hours.
Six rooms were occupied on Monday, he added, several guests rushed to reception when they noticed the fire. Zhu was in the kitchen when the fire alarm went off. He went to reception to turn off the alarm system where he was informed of the situation.
The hotel owner immediately contacted the local fire department, but by then the fire had already taken hold of the building. Zhu ushered guests away from the hotel, as he worried about several propane tanks sitting dangerously close to the flames.
The Record also asked Zhu about the building’s structural integrity. The owner wasn’t able to provide any details. However, part of the roof collapsed near the reception area. He also had little to add about whether or not he could salvage the hotel.
“I don’t know yet because the structure is concrete. The roof and walls are wood. For sure most of the roof is burned on both sides,” Zhu said.
The pandemic hasn’t been kind to hotels. Zhu told The Record that it has been a quiet winter, especially with limited outdoor activities. Normally a busy time of year, the hotel owner has seen a sharp decline since the start of the second wave of COVID-19.
“Last year, summer was alright,” he said. “After September, the government asked us to close this, close that, there was little business, not too many rooms being rented.”
Magog Fire Department Chief of Operations Martin Pomerleau told The Record that due to the layout of the building — long and narrow — and the description of the fire, he immediately reached out to neighbouring municipalities.
Pomerleau called in support from Eastman, Saint-Denis-de-Brompton, the Régie de l’Est and the Canton d ‘Orford. There were about 60 firefighters trying to put out the fire, he continued, but it wasn’t enough to save the building.
Firefighters also needed to remove four propane tanks from the area. There is no conclusive evidence as to what started the fire, Pomerleau added, but an investigation is underway. He concluded that the building is a total loss due to fire and water damage.