Investigators have determined the origin and cause of a fire that forced the early morning evacuation of guests and staff from the Mount Royal Hotel in Banff last week.

Emergency crews were called to the hotel on Banff Avenue at about 2:30 a.m. on December 29, 2016 after an RCMP officer noticed smoke pouring from the roof.

Police activated the alarm and safely evacuated 297 guests from the 135-room hotel.

The majority of the guests were from the UK and US and all were taken in by other hotels in the area a few hours later.

Construction crews were working on roof replacement on the structure the evening before the fire and officials say the flame of a propane torch came into contact with combustible material on the roof and that caused the fire.

The original hotel was rebuilt after a fire in 1967 and officials say the materials used in its construction made it challenging to contain the blaze.  

“This was a very difficult fire, it started just below the new roof structure that was just placed, now this construction at this hotel, it’s quite old, and so we were dealing with lath and plaster construction in the suites and then there was a void, a dead space, approximately a foot in depth and then the second roof system, the new roof system, was on top of that so the fire started in between those two systems,” said Silvio Adamo, Banff Fire Chief. “Initially we were on the roof with some firefighters doing some trench cuts and trying to stop if from moving across the void space but at one point we made the decision to pull everyone off that roof, it was becoming a little unstable and we certainly did not want to risk any of our firefighters.”

Insurance and fire investigators took a look at images, video footage, witness interviews and the site of the fire and say the origin was along the south fire wall, about eight metres from the brick wall that faces Banff Avenue.

“It was a lot of effort to try and break through to contain that fire and we attacked it from both interior and exterior and we did that for quite a number of hours,” said Adamo. “We contained the fire to that area, within the two fire walls, so there were 12 hotel suites that were damaged by fire but unfortunately because of the type of fire and how we had to fight it, there was significant amounts of water that was used and therefore that water made its way down and through the property so there is a fair bit of water damage.”

Brewster Travel says the hotel is scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2017.