The historic firewall exposed after a fire on Nov. 12 and 13 which destroyed two buildings, one of which was the General Store.
Jacob Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By Jacob Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It looks like Shaunavon will probably lose its historic firewall, although it certainly proved its effectiveness and value during a fire last week.

The wall, which stands between the former Gehl’s General Store (265 Centre Street) and AME Mechanical (255 Centre Street), has been deemed structurally unsafe and a safety risk, and is likely to be torn down in the near future (although it was still standing as of last Friday). 

The wall was constructed more than 100 years ago to help the spread of fires, as many early downtown structures in Shaunavon and across the province were built wall-to wall with little or no safe separation. 

The wall lived up to its purpose during last week’s ferocious blaze, and successfully prevented a fire that toppled the General Store, from burning down the AME Mechanical building.

Built shortly after the great fire of 1918, (which destroyed 18 businesses), the fire wall in Shaunavon is one of only two still standing in the province. The other one is located in Mossbank. Only four were ever built in the province. Two others, at Radville and Ogema, had already been torn down.

Although they provided a level of safety and security, the walls were rarely built because of the high costs attached to their construction.

Representatives from the Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre are disappointed to see the wall come down but understand that it may pose a safety risk in the future.

The GCHCC used the rare opportunity of the wall being exposed to further document it, including finding out the actual dimensions of the wall and taking pictures of the exposed brick.

The museum hopes to have some of the bricks saved from demolition and would like to use the bricks in a future project or to put on display in the archives.

The firewall was damaged once before in 1933 when strong winds blew a part of it over, damaging the then Fennell Bros. Hardware store to the South.

This item is reprinted with permission from The Shaunavon Standard.

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