Ghost rails inn

The Ghost Rails Inn was gutted in Monday’s fire in Alberton, according to Frenchtown Rural Fire officials.

KURT WILSON/Missoulian

MISSOULA — Fire swept through a lovingly restored historic building in Alberton this week, all but razing one of the community’s most prominent structures.

Built in 1909, the Ghost Rails Inn was lost to the fast-moving blaze, which sparked before dawn on Monday.

“It was a staple in Alberton,” said Mel Holtz, a firefighter and EMT with the Frenchtown Rural Fire District. “It’s unfortunate to lose a historic building like that. The owners had done a great job outfitting it.”

The initial fire call rang in at 4:48 a.m. on Christmas Eve. The first crew to arrive on scene reported flames rising from the rear of the building.

Holtz said the crew called for mutual aid and received support from all three Frenchtown fire stations, along with a ladder truck from the Missoula Rural Fire District.

Nine pieces of apparatus arrived to fight the fire, along with 18 firefighters and an ambulance. Despite their efforts, Holtz said, the fire spread to the attic and roof before consuming much of the building.

“It was a total loss,” Holtz said. “Once it got into the attic, it worked to the front. The building had been renovated over the years. In those old buildings, it makes a difference in how you gain access.”

Holtz said faulty wiring was likely to blame. No one was injured in the fire.

According to the Ghost Rails Inn website, the old hotel with eight unique guest rooms was built in 1909 to house employees working for the Milwaukee Road.

The Ghost Rails Inn was formerly known as the Montana Hotel. It had been renovated and was operating as an award-winning bed-and-breakfast.

Innkeepers Thom and Grace Garrett couldn’t be reached Wednesday by phone.

“Here’s a place where ghostly trains still run on time, a place where mountains live large, where rivers crash through timeless gorges, and where folks still take time to know you,” the hotel’s website reads.