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Fire shuts down two businesses

A fire during the early morning hours of November 25th gutted one business in downtown Kenmare and shut down a second because of smoke, soot and heat damage.

12/02/09 (Wed)


A fire during the early morning hours of November 25th gutted one business in downtown Kenmare and shut down a second because of smoke, soot and heat damage.


The Kenmare Fire Department was called to a fire at Danny’s Bar & Grill about 1:20 am Wednesday, with 28 members and four engines responding.


Fire chief Dale Hanson said the department called immediately for mutual aid assistance from the Bowbells, Tolley and Lignite departments, after recalling the downtown fire of Murrays’ business in 1994. “We didn’t want to take any chances,” he said. “We didn’t know what we were dealing with.”


According to Hanson, members of the Kenmare department entered Danny’s Bar & Grill within minutes of getting organized and worked until 4:30 am to control the fire. “By then, we had the fire knocked down and were trying to get the smoke out,” Hanson said. “By 5 am, it was mostly contained except for ventilation of the smoke.”


One of the Kenmare engines and a group of firemen stayed on the scene after the other firefighters were released. “We wanted to keep the area secured until after the fire marshal did her investigation,” Hanson said. “We didn’t even let the owner in there until she gave us the okay for that.”


Smoke noticed by chance

Stephanie Burtch reported the fire on her way home from work at South of the Border that morning. She first noticed black smoke rising from Danny’s Bar & Grill and assumed the furnace was working harder because of the night’s cold temperatures, but when she drove in front of the building, the smoke blocked her view. She immediately contacted Kenmare Community Hospital to page members of the fire department, then circled the downtown square again.


This time, the air was completely clear and she thought she may have called for help too quickly. “But when I rolled my window down, I still smelled something burning,” she said. “The fire department needed to be called.”


When Stephanie arrived at her home on 2nd Street, a block from the downtown square, she told her husband Mike about what she’d seen. He went to the west side of the square and felt an exterior wall of R$ and Variety. “That was a cold touch,” Stephanie said, “but when he felt [the wall at] Danny’s, that was hot to his touch.”


She notified Rory Stroklund, owner of R$ and Variety, and then called Sara Schlosser, whose husband Danny was still driving home to Tolley after closing his business for the night.


Extensive damage

“The fire was in one building, but it took out two,” Hanson said.


With Danny’s Bar & Grill and R$ & Variety sharing a roof and separated by a connecting wall, Hanson said the firemen knew they had a difficult situation, but they managed to contain the flames within Danny’s. The buildings on the west side of the square are essentially connected to one another, and Hanson said the department was prepared to evacuate an apartment above Kenmare Drug if the fire had threatened more buildings.


“The firemen worked together pretty well,” said Hanson. “Even the new members pitched in right away, with only one or two years of training.”


Firefighters worked in short shifts, suited up with their self-contained breathing equipment, with one group inside the building and another waiting to relieve them. “They wore the oxygen tanks for three or four hours,” said Hanson, “and we went through quite a few bottles that night, with about 20 minutes of oxygen per tank.”


The fire marshal arrived about 8:30 am Wednesday and determined the cause of the fire to be electrical, originating at or near the walk-in cooler area. Hanson described the interior of the building as heavily damaged, from both the flames and the heat of the fire.

“It was totalled,” he said. “It got pretty intense in there with the heat.” He described several items as melted, even though the flames didn’t burn in some parts of the building.


Hanson said firefighters also kept a close eye on R$ and Variety, but as far as they could determine, nothing actually burned in that building. “We tore down some paneling and checked his roof,” said Hanson. “We didn’t know if the fire got in there. We could see black soot where that had filtered in.”


Fate of businesses

in question right now

“There was soot and smoke in the whole building,” said Renee Stroklund, “and I had just cleaned the store to get it ready for Light Up Night!”


The Stroklunds have been allowed in their business only to collect business records and paperwork, with their insurance adjustor asking them to stay out until the evaluation of the building is complete.


“We’ve been told it’s structurally unsustainable,” Rory said, “and we’ve got a 75 to 80 percent loss on inventory, according to the adjustor.”


The couple has not yet been able to plan anything related to the future of their business. “Right now, we’re just hurrying up and waiting,” said Renee. “We don’t dare make any other arrangements. We’ve had people calling and asking if they can help clean up, and we’re very grateful, but there’s nothing we can do.”


“The support of the community has been very good,” added Rory, “and the fire department was impressive. They were genuinely concerned for me and Danny, coming out to give us constant updates.”


Sara Schlosser said she and her husband haven’t looked at too many future plans yet. “Everything is just wrecked,” she said. “We’re going day by day.”


She and Danny opened the business in March 2006 and had three employees. Sara confirmed the significant heat damage throughout the establishment and said that demolition of the building was under consideration.


In the meantime, the Schlossers have been cleaning and salvaging what they can. “We got all our equipment out,” said Sara, describing the freezers as unharmed except for a coating of black soot that can be removed with hard scrubbing.


The couple has been asked several times about rebuilding. “We’re undecided with that right now,” said Sara, “but I can say be thankful for what you’ve got today. It can all be gone tomorrow, just like that.”


The Kenmare Police Department assisted with traffic control and accompanied firefighters into R$ and Kenmare Drug to check those buildings for damages. Members of the Kenmare Ambulance Service also stood by and treated one fireman for conditions associated with smoke inhalation.


“We know this was bad, but it could have been a lot worse,” said Hanson. “The firemen knew what to do. It was unbelievable how they knocked it down in a short amount of time and saved more damage.”


A benefit for the Danny and Sara Schlosser family is being scheduled for Sunday, December 13th, tentatively from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm. More details will be available in next week’s issue of The Kenmare News.