RCMP and firefighters are investigating after a fire tore through a popular gathering spot east of Edmonton.

The fire at the Two Hills Curling Rink broke out at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Officers were called to the rink to find everyone who had been inside at the time had escaped – a number of nearby residences were evacuated as a precaution.

A man evacuated from the building told CTV News they could smell gas in the area – so they went to inspect the gas meter.

“We walked over to the meter, and looked there, and the meter was broken off,” Allen Zaparniuk said.

Zaparniuk said two other men and himself were at the rink to prepare for a meeting.

Not long after they checked the gas meter, they heard a loud explosion – and the gas line caught fire.

At times, between 40 and 50 firefighters from Two Hills, Hairy Hill and Myrnam fought the fire for several hours, but RCMP said the fire was so intense fire crews couldn’t get the upper hand.

However, the local hockey arena that stands next to the rink was saved.

Officers are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Officials with the Town of Two Hills said rink was built in 1967 and was worth about $1.6 million, and was a total loss.

“It’s unbelieveable how fast it burned,” Zaparniuk said.

The impact of the blaze is felt throughout the community, but Zaparniuk is looking on the good side.

“Nobody was hurt, that’s the main thing,” he said. “There probably would have been 15 or 20 people inside there at the meeting, so it worked out.”

With files from Veronica Jubinville