BADGER, NL – For 35 years, Lil and Frank Saunders owned and operated the Badger Diner.
At approximately 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 14, they watched everything they had worked so hard to build reduced to a pile of burnt ash.
Lil Saunders had been working the evening shift that night; she closed the kitchen around 7 p.m. and as per her usual routine, went through the kitchen to ensure everything was turned off.
It was 8 p.m. when the last customer left the bar, an early night for her, Saunders said.
Just after that last customer left, she told the Advertiser, she went into the washroom, and that’s when she heard a noise. Upon further investigation she realized a fire had broken out in the stock room at the back of the kitchen.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said.
After gathering a few ornaments that had been gifted to her by her parents, Saunders left the building. Aside from those few items, the entire building and everything inside was a total loss.
“Once I got out I didn’t want to go back in. I was afraid if the fire went into the kitchen with all the fat fryers, she was going to go,” she said.
“I don’t know what to say. Thirty-five years of our life went just like that. It was so devastating, I’m heart broken, we’re both heart broken.”
Fighting the fire
Temperatures were frigid as the Badger Fire Department dealt with the flames that engulfed the Badger Diner.
The Badger Fire Department managed to deal with the flames without assistance from other departments, said Fire Chief Gus Loder.
“We had two pumpers and two rescue units on site,” he said.
It was approximately 8:30 p.m. when they received the call, and firefighters didn’t leave the scene until approximately 1:30 a.m., said Loder. They were called back for a small flare up around 6 a.m. but that was under control again within a half an hour.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined. Loder said the case is now left with the RCMP and the fire commissioner's office.
At the time of publication, no representative of the RCMP was able to respond to a request for an interview.
Loder said his crew first operated on the offensive against the blaze, moving into the building to try to douse the flames. When the roof began to collapse, they retreated and took up a defensive strategy, preventing the fire from spreading.
He is proud of the team that was out fighting the fire last night.
“For the situation we were dealt with, I think our group did a fantastic job,” he said.
Despite the cold weather, crowds of people gathered to watch as the flames took down the local landmark restaurant.
“This brought us out, the fire… it’s sad,” said Harvey White of Badger.
He and his wife watched the blaze from across the road in the warmth of their truck.
“They had the best fish and chips on the island, they says it was,” White told the Advertiser.
“We didn’t have any issue with anybody in around our active fire grounds,” Loder said. “The citizens stepped up they stayed out of our way.”
RCMP were also on the scene to help with crowd control.
On Monday morning all that was left of the Badger Diner was a pile of hot ash.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do, it’s just too quick,” said Saunders when asked if they had any plans to rebuild or what their next move would be.
“It could have been worse,” she said. “I could have been in it. Always look on the bright side.”