An early morning fire razed a Vancouver Island hotel Monday morning, destroying the oldest licenced establishment in B.C. and ending a chapter of community history.

More than 30 firefighters rushed to save the Lorne Hotel in downtown Comox after flames broke out just past 1 a.m. but there was little they could do.

The 133-year-old heritage building was completely gutted by the flames, with only two walls and part of a staircase remaining when the fire was extinguished.

Comox Fire Department Asst. Chief Rick Shelton said the entire building collapsed on itself.

"This is a bit of a tragedy for our community," he told "It's really going to change the landscape of the town."

The Lorne was built in 1878 and was named after the Marquis of Lorne, then Canada's Governor General. It was the community's first hotel and viewed by many as an important meeting place.

Longtime Comox resident Bob Wilson was among those watching the fire this morning.

"Ever since I came here in 1976 this is the first place I went after work, go for a beer. I met my partner here 30 years ago," he said.

City counsellor Kent Grant said the fire represents a large loss to the community.

"It's not a good thing for our town. That's the building that everyone sort of liked and really added some character to our Main Street," he said.

The building was empty when the fire broke out and a cause still isn't known.