Sarah’s Longhouse and pole burned in Old Massett

  • Mar. 24, 2005 4:00 p.m.

By Mariah McCooey-Sarah’s Longhouse in Old Masset was destroyed in a fire Tuesday evening (March 22).
The fire completely consumed the building and severely damaged the Reg Davidson totem pole that was in front of it.
The visiting Maxwell Baha’i dance group that was staying in the longhouse were off at a performance when the fire started, and by the time they got back, the building, along with all their personal belongings, was gone.
“The building looks like it’s pretty much a write-off right now,” said Peter White, Old Massett fire chief. At the time we spoke with him, they were still investigating the cause of the blaze, but owner Sarah Davidson said that the likely culprit was the propane heating system, which might have malfunctioned; or clothing hanging too close to the stove.
The dancers had left for the day for a performance in Port Clements, said Ms Davidson, so when she heard a noise outside around 9:30 pm, she thought it was the group returning. But when she stepped outside to pass on a message, she realized that the noise was the building being consumed by flames and called the fire department.
But Ms Davidson said that there might be parts of the 15-year old structure that can be salvaged. Since it is built with giant beams, she said that there is a chance they could be taken down, cleaned up, and put back. But there are places where the fire burnt right through the walls, she said, especially around the area where the stove was. The totem pole is all burnt, except for the figure on the very bottom.
The shaken dancers were taken to the teen centre in Masset, where they spent the night.
Teen centre organizer Sarah Hillis said that they were “well looked after” by people in Masset, with donations of blankets, clothing, and money to buy shampoo and new underwear, since everything but their dancing gear was burnt up. The dancers returned to their school on Vancouver Island Thursday.