The Way it Was

Courtesy of the Kimberley Heritage Museum archives

February 26, 1959

$200,000 Fernie Arena Razed; Hockey Player Perishes In Blaze

A well-known Fernie athlete, 19 year-old Dominic Ferrarelli, died in a flash fire which destroyed the $200,000 community-built Fernie Arena Tuesday night. Witnesses said the fire seemed to explode and engulf the entire building. It forced practising Fernie juvenile hockey players to flee in their uniforms.

Ferrarelli’s body was found about 10 p.m. Fernie time, about four hours after the fire had started, near the north end doorway.

Cause of the fire was unknown and investigation is to begin this morning.

Loss of the rink is a hard blow to Fernie, for it contained the Curling club Quarters and was a winter community centre.

Fifty years ago, in august, 1908, almost the entire town was razed by fire.

The arena fire broke out about 6 p.m. It appeared to start in one corner of the arena, near the dressing rooms at the north end.

Dominic Ferrarelli, a high school student, is survived by his mother and stepfather, Guseppe Boscjo, one brother, Vincent and one sister, Josephine. He was a member of the United Soccer club and the Junior baseball team.

Witnesses said a wall caved in almost immediately as the fire spread with lightening speed.

Thirty minutes later, the roof and walls collapsed. The aluminum roof had been covered with tar a year ago to check serious leakage.

Curling Club trophies, rocks and brooms were lost and a coffee shop operated by Mr. and Mrs. William Corrigan and the rink ticket office destroyed Fernie Rangers of the A – B.C. – M intermediate hockey league lost all equipment.

Firemen of the Fernie Volunteer Fire Department fought the blaze, but an hour after it started, the arena was a mass of smoking ruins.

The artificial ice rink was officially opened in January 1954 and the arena itself on Remembrance Day in 1952.

Initial steps in construction was taken prior to World War II, but economic conditions interfered so it was in 1951 when a new committee was finally organized. Construction started in 1951.

The arena was 234 feet long, 161 feet wide and 45 feet high. Sixteen huge double interlocked arches, each with an overthrow of 182 feet, supported the roof.

Seating capacity was 1200 and there was room for 800 standing customers.

There were four curling sheets all equipped with locker space, curlers’ room and heated observation room. The main ice surface was 180 feet by 80 feet.

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