Community heartbroken

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(Photo by CAROLINE LOBSINGER) An Idaho State fire marshal joins Selkirk Fire Capt. Glen Cassidy in front of the Headlines hair salon as crews begin what is expected to be a days-long investigation into the fire’s cause.

SANDPOINT — Heartbroken and shocked.

As news spread that fire had devastated a number of Sandpoint businesses, the community was left reeling.

“We at the chamber are heartbroken for the business owners,” Kate McAlister, president of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, said in an email to the Daily Bee. “Owning a small business is hard enough without something like this tragedy happening. I am sure our community will rally behind the owners and help in any way we can. While these historical buildings cannot be brought back again, our memories and experiences will remain.”

As those who work in the surrounding businesses made their way into their smoke-filled buildings Monday morning, they thought of their fellow business owners and employees who suddenly lost so much.

“It hits me in my heart,” said Kelly Thielbahr, WE Yoga co-founder, adding she and co-founder Christine Matt know how much “love and energy” goes into building a business. “Those business owners this morning, to hear that devastating news and loss … my heart goes out to them.”

Community members took to social media to express gratitude toward the firefighters, relief that nobody was injured, and their sadness over the loss of some of their favorite downtown businesses.

“The chocolate store was the only place to get items for Valentine’s Day,” commented Kristina Owens. “A huge day for them. So very sad.”

“... I am so sorry for those business owners and their employees,” commented Patricia Sheetz. “Relieved that no one was hurt. Residents of Sandpoint will want to help, I am sure. I know I do.”

“... This was a devastating blow to our lovely Sandpoint,” commented Shawny Swan. “Just heartbreaking. I hope they all rebuild.”

Some of the business owners took to social media as well, announcing plans to reopen in the future. Owners of The Hound said they would be closed for a few months.

“Please stay tuned for our plans to reopen,” they wrote. “We will be back as soon as we can to keep feeding you amazing pizza. Cheers to all of you who have supported us.”

Chocolate Bear also said their Sandpoint location will be closed for the time being, but plan to rebuild a “bigger and more awesome Chocolate Bear.”

“We would like to thank the area fire departments for their efforts and hard work,” they said. “We are very fortunate and thankful no one was hurt.”

As for Grace, the church was damaged by the fire, though not destroyed as its neighboring businesses were. On Facebook, Grace officials wrote, “A fire almost got us … The firefighters took a stand, literally, on our building and knocked down the flames.”

Firefighters cut a trench in the roof of the church to prevent the fire from spreading. Due to smoke and water damage, church officials said they will be relocating temporarily for the next month or so. Sandpoint Community Resource Center’s executive director, Linnis Jellinek, said anyone impacted by the fire is encouraged to contact the center with any needs they might have. Those in need of resources can call 208-920-1840, or visit the SCRC website at sandpointcommunityresource.com.

Several GoFundMe campaigns have also been launched to help those hurt by the fire.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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