SANDPOINT — Five businesses were destroyed after a structure fire tore at the heart of the city’s historic district early Monday morning.
City officials said they received a report shortly after 1 a.m. that two iconic buildings at the corner of First Avenue and Bridge Street were on fire.
There were no reports of injuries.
Firefighters from Selkirk Fire Rescue & EMS and fire district throughout Bonner County and part of Kootenai County engaged in an offensive attack, but had to resort to defensive measures at approximately 4 a.m., after concerns arose about the stability of the century-old structure housing Headlines Salon, The Hound restaurant and pub, Sandpoint Tattoo & Body Piercing, Sandpoint Chocolate Bear, China Kitchen and the former Ol’ Red’s Pub.
“It appears we do have structural compromise,” Selkirk Chief Ron Stocking said at an outdoor news conference on First Avenue on Monday morning.
The cause of the fire and where it originated in the building remains under investigation by Sandpoint Police and the Idaho State Fire Marshal’s Office, Stocking said.
In addition to displacing five active businesses, the fire caused smoke and water damage to the neighboring The Sandpoint Grace church, city officials said.
The building that burned, which began its life as a saloon space during the city’s wilder, turn-of-the-century, has been home to a laundry list of businesses over the course of its lifetime. They include The Floor Show, Conlan’s bar, The Back Door bar and Bricks & Barley just to name a few.
City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said during the news conference that an engineer is being brought in to determine whether the structure can be salvaged or if it will have to be condemned and razed. The city said in a news release on Monday evening that the two buildings are being condemned due to the fire damage.
Stocking said firefighters arrived to find smoke emanating from the roof and fire consuming the interior.
Stocking praised firefighters’ efforts, which were undertaken amid snowfall, 11-degree temperatures and the spray from aerial hose lines.
“I am extremely proud of the firefighters right now. These were adverse conditions. At the height of the fire, everybody was covered in ice,” Stocking said as firefighters continued working to extinguish the blaze.
Firefighters inside the building encountered cramped conditions, vintage construction and years of remodeling.
“We’re dealing with construction that’s over a hundred years old. There’s lots of chases and lots of avenues for fire to travel,” Stocking said.
The damage estimate ranges from $4-7 million, according to Stapleton.
“It’s just devastating for our small local businesses — not only those businesses directly impacted but our businesses in the surrounding area. This is obviously a devastating incident for us,” Stapleton said.
The fire is the second blow to the face of Sandpoint since last September, when the city was forced to condemn a building near Cedar Street due to structural safety concerns. The building was home to Arlo’s Ristorante and Blue Lizard Indian Art. Arlo’s has since reopened on Second Avenue.
After touring the site on Monday, Mayor Shelby Rognstad said hearts go out to business owners, employees, their families and others who were impacted by the fire.
“This is a huge loss for our community. The city will do everything it can to expedite this process, ensure public safety and return downtown to normal as best we can,” Rognstad said.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.