A fire this morning at the West Hawk Inn, an iconic stop in the West Hawk Lake resort area with a popular patio and bar, has seriously damaged the building but RCMP say are no injuries.
"The whole building is on fire right now," said an employee at the nearby Keystone Resort. "There was no one in the building when it started at 8 this morning and the people in the three motels beside it were evacuated around 8 a.m."
Numerous people have been putting photos up on Twitter that show a signifcant blaze and smoke.
The West Hawk Campground, located behind the West Hawk Inn, was evacuated due to the direction of the wind. One individual who was among the evacuated campers was treated for smoke inhalation and has been cleared.
The fire drew dozens upon dozens of onlookers who came out of concern for the popular neigbourhood landmark.
"It’s the end of an era," said a misty-eyed Judith Mallord, who has been a seasonal West Hawk resident for decades.
"I met my partner Richard here, my daughter worked here.
"It’s just so sad that it’s gone. We’re lucky there was no wind so it didn’t spread."
Her daughter, Joanne, who used to work in the restaurant before it was the West Wok, said with a bar, beer vendor, restaurant and a few rooms to rent, "you were pretty well covered."
"It was nearly impossible not to have stepped foot in there," she said.
Family friend Terry Prat said the weekend nights at the bar were legendary.
"It was a huge part of coming to the lake from the time I was in my late teens to 25 or so. I remember we’d have to leave the dinner table before we were finished to come down here to get in line," he said. "This place was packed. It was the place to be.
"This is just devastating."
Steven Dare opened the West Wok restaurant attached to the inn just four years ago. He said he has hundreds of loyal customers who drop by from different parts of the Whiteshell.
But that's all over now, the affable owner said.
"Gone, all gone." said Dare, sitting in the passenger seat of a pickup truck, across the street from the smouldering remains of the Inn.
"It's just very sad."
Dare was sleeping in a cabin he uses just behind the inn when a friend started pounding on his door about 7:45 a.m.
"He said, 'Get out of there, Steve, before you're barbecued in there,' " Dare said.
"I went outside and I could see smoke coming from the roof but no flames yet. I couldn't believe it.
"Then the flames started and that's when I cried."
Dare said he has "a few other restaurants" in Winnipeg Beach, Selkirk ad Ashern, and likely won't rebuild in West Hawk.
"I'll probably retire early," he said. "I do this for 45 years. I build my clientele so they love my food. I love my job."
An RCMP statement at about 11:30 a.m. Friday said the fire was still fully involved and had no estimate of when the fire will be extinguished.
The cause of the fire is unknown at this time. The Office of the Fire Commissioner will be assisting with the investigation.