Whistler rallies for Seppo
Landmark house burns, Tapley's and Boot pubs to hold fund-raisers
By Chris Woodall
When Seppo Makinen's massive log house burned to a blackened shell, Sunday, April 19, Whistler quickly sprang to action to rally around one of this community's more colourful residents.
By Wednesday, April 22, Whistler Fire Chief Norm Dedeluk said the fire was definitely accidental.
"The best I can say at this point is that it's not a suspicious fire," fire chief Dedeluk told Pique Newsmagazine at its publishing deadline late Wednesday afternoon. "It is an accidental fire, but I'm not prepared to say what specifically caused the fire."
The 6,000-7,000 square foot log frame house was insured.
Fund-raising efforts at two of Seppo's favourite watering holes are organized for this weekend.
Tapley's Pub is holding the "Still Smokin' Party" today (Friday) starting about 8 p.m. and featuring, of course, the band Still Smokin.' Entry is by donation.
The pub had an easy time beating the bushes to get donated goods to raffle; all proceeds going to Seppo.
Two days later it's the Boot Pub's turn — Sunday, April 26 — for a benefit.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with live music cranking up at 9 p.m.
Donations of cash, clothes, and non-perishable foods (or liquids) will be accepted at the door.
A third Seppo night is being organized by Rick Flebbe and others for the conference centre sometime in early May. The Whistler Resort Association has apready donated the space.
Paul Fournier is arranging a silent auction for the event, while Flebbe searches for a name band to bring the people in.
"Not a lot of people know Seppo — especially if they've only been here a year — but they may come out for the entertainment," Flebbe says.
More details will come out in the next week.
The fire was reported at 2:06 p.m., April 19.
By the time firefighters arrived, flames were seen roaring through windows and the roof of the house, originally built as a loggers bunk house in the late 1960s. It had operated as an informal lodge for years.
A wind from the north prevented flames and sparks from licking at neighbouring houses, Dedeluk says. Firefighters lay protection lines just in case.
There were no injuries to guests at the house, or to firefighters containing the blaze.
"It was a difficult fire to fight because of the fuel load," Dedeluk says of the log construction. "There were numerous after-fire spots to put out because the house collapsed in on itself."
Through the course of the fire — and until 10 a.m. the next morning — 32 Whistler firefighters participated at the fire scene.
Seppo's house was of three levels on a pie-shaped lot on Nesters Road. The slim backyard borders the west side of Highway 99 near the Lorimer Road intersection.
The house is completely destroyed. "It will be up to the building department, but in all likelihood it will be removed," Dedeluk says of the charred remains.
The house featured a hot tub carved into the bedrock in the basement.
Seppo built the house using recycled materials, including doors from Vancouver's old city hall, and flooring from the former Woodfibre bowling alley and gymnasium.
"The house is crammed with old ski equipment, clothing, record albums, books, games and trinkets," wrote Lorraine Passchier in a Pique Newsmagazine feature in December, 1994.
"It is these personal items, many left behind by transients that (are) as if old friends will always be near," Passchier wrote.
There is an inground swimming pool in the backyard guarded by a unique diving board that is like "walking the plank" off of one ship-like deck of the house.
It now has fire wrack floating on its surface, the water black with soot from the inferno. It will be up to building department staff to determine what to do about the pool.
The backyard is a crazy quilt of trees, shrubbery and rescued items, including fast-food table/chair sets and a car from Whistler Mountain's first gondola.
It is hard to estimate what the financial loss of the house is.
To replace that size of house could cost as much as $900,000, fire chief Dedeluk says as a "very rough guess," but the house's construction was not worth that. "It's hard to say what it's worth, the house is so old."
The Seppo house fire ironically marks the first of several Whistler heritage buildings that will disappear from Whistler's landscape this year.
Also due to vanish are the Roundhouse near the peak of Whistler Mountain, the Gondola Barn at the Creekside base, two cabins across Whistler Creek from the Gondola Barn that had a variety of uses, the Chamber of Commerce office at the highway and Lake Placid Road, and the Skiers Chapel multi-faith facility beside it (although it may be moved to a new site).
As a logger back in the 1960s, Seppo was instrumental in falling the yellow cedar trees that make up the foundation pillars of the Roundhouse.
His summer camp for that construction project was at the base of Glacier Bowl. That, too, is gone: now the site of a reservoir.