Thursday night blaze called suspicious
DOLORES — Suspicious in nature.
That’s what Thursday night’s blaze in downtown Dolores is being called. The fire gutted the historic Hollywood Bar and an adjoining art studio.
Lt. Ted Meador of the Montezuma County Sheriff offered few details about the fire Friday. An arson investigation team from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation arrived late Friday afternoon to investigate the cause of the blaze.
The first call to dispatch came in at 11:34 p.m., Meador said.
The Dolores Fire Department was first on the scene, arriving minutes after the first call. Agencies from around the region responded to the blaze.
It was quickly evident that it would not be an easy night.
“It went off so quick and it was very difficult to fight,” Dolores Fire Chief Mike Zion said. “The building is old and there have been so many additions to it.”
He said that firefighter safety was a priority as the blaze ripped through the building.
“We pulled everybody out,” he said about getting firefighters out of harm’s way when it was clear the building was too dangerous to fight up close.
Marvin Sylakowski was at the Hollywood Bar Thursday night. He said that there were only six people in the bar including the bartender, so they decided to close at 9 p.m.
“Everything was fine when we left,” he said.
Susi Siber, who owns the nearby Rio Grande Southern Hotel, woke up and looked out her second-story window and saw flames.
“I saw flames on the tree in back and there was a lot of smoke,” she said.
By the time firefighters arrived, the owner of the Fusion Studio, Beth Hensen, was furiously packing her van with artwork from the studio.
An apartment near the blaze was also impacted and a family was displaced, according to officials.
The American Red Cross Southwest Colorado Chapter responded to the fire to assess damages and determine how it can help those displaced by the fire.
Zion said the multiple agencies that responded from around the region, did an admirable job fighting the fire.
“It was a good group effort. It takes mutual aid to help small departments like ours.”
He said that the Cortez department’s ladder truck enabled them to flood the fire with water from above.
Zion, who started with the fire department in 1978, said that all 20 of the department’s volunteers responded to the blaze. He estimated that around 50 firefighters total responded to the fire.
He said the drain on the town’s water supply was an immediate concern and the fire department switched to a contingency plan that they have had in place for years: Pull water from the Dolores River.
Splicing together two 5-inch 1,000-foot hoses, firefighters began pumping water out of the river to douse the flames.
Temporary reservoirs were also set up and filled by water trucks to help get more water to the scene.
The historic bar was built in the early 1900s and was called the Green Frog before becoming the Hollywood Bar. A firefighter emerged from the Hollywood Bar Friday and showed an onlooker a ceramic green frog keepsake that was kept on the bar.
In March, the bar was named the Dolores Business of the Year. According to an article in the Dolores Star, the bar is owned by Travis Giddings, and Renee and Louis Sims. The bar was purchased about two years ago and the new owners had made a number of changes since.
The Hollywood Bar has long served as one of the main locales for the highly popular Escalante Days starting Friday, Aug. 10.
The old Hollywood Bar sign was reportedly saved from the flames.
The Hollywood Bar was a well-known business to Dolores firefighters for lunch, a cold beer or a fundraiser. Zion said the bar held countless fundraisers for the Dolores Fire Department over the years.
Thursday night’s blaze is the second blaze on the same block. Back in the early 1980s, a fire ripped through another pair of business — Taylor’s Hardware and a small grocery store. The former building locations have been vacant lots since.
Zion, who has been with the fire department for 34 years, said he remembers fighting that fire too.
Meador said they are taking “all the steps in finding out” the cause of the blaze.
Ironically, the first day of a firefighter convention started Friday in Dolores with more than 15 fire agencies from Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado taking part in the two-day convention.