Fire guts 3 shops in Cortez

Traffic detoured until noon Sunday

Mary Shinn/The Cortez Journal Assistant Fire Chief Charles Balke walks out of the back door of the three buildings that were gutted by fire on Sunday. Cortez fire and police departments are investigated the cause of the fire.


An early morning blaze in downtown Cortez on Sunday gutted three businesses in a historic building, closed a coffee shop and halted traffic on Main Street for hours.

Emergency fire crews were dispatched to Stewart's Floor Covering at 20 East Main St. at 3:38 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9. Within four minutes, firefighters were on scene as flames jumped some 20 feet in the air. Assistant Fire Chief Charles Balke was with one of the first crews to respond.

"We saw heavy smoke pushing through the roof and through the front of the building," he explained.

Some 50 firefighters responded to the scene, including crews from Dolores, Lewis, Mancos and Pleasant View. No injuries were reported, but Stewart's Floor Covering Center, Cortez Works, and Family Shoes and More were destroyed, said Balke.

The cause of the fire remains under scrutiny by the department's arson investigator and Cortez Police Department detectives.

"It doesn't look suspicious, but the cause remains undetermined at this time," Vandevoorde said.

The owner of the building, Bill Armstrong said he was waiting to speak with his insurance company and for the cause of the fire to be determined before deciding to rebuild.

The building dated back to the 1920's and had been home to the Palace Barber Shop until the 1990s, he said. Armstrong's family had owned the building since the 1950s.

If he rebuilds Armstrong said he would like it to be a slightly bigger structure.

He also said he had "Lots of hope for the future of Main Street Cortez. It's what gives a small town it's character."

Annette Stewart, an owner of Stewart's Floor Covering Center, said she was sad to lose her shop after nine years on Main Street. But she planned to reopen a show room as soon as possible.

Stewart said her inventory was stored off-site and she is still doing business.

Power was shut off to the entire block of Main Street as a precaution, impacting a half-dozen businesses. Officials allowed business owners to remove computers and other pertinent items, Vandevoorde said. Power was restored by 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

A fire destroyed three Cortez businesses on Main Street Sunday morning. The building that contains the three businesses was engulfed in flames about 7:30 a.m., when this photo was taken. Enlargephoto

Courtesy of Carolyn Hessom

A fire destroyed three Cortez businesses on Main Street Sunday morning. The building that contains the three businesses was engulfed in flames about 7:30 a.m., when this photo was taken.

Mary Shinn/The Cortez Journal

Members of the Cortez fire and police departments investigate the fire that gutted three businesses on Main Street Sunday. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Cortez Journal Members of the Cortez fire and police departments investigate the fire that gutted three businesses on Main Street Sunday.

Mary Shinn/The Cortez Journal

Assistant Fire Chief Charles Balke and members of the Cortez fire and police departments investigate the fire on Main Street Sunday. This is a view of the back of the building where a flooring store, a shoe store and Cortez Works used to be housed. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Cortez Journal Assistant Fire Chief Charles Balke and members of the Cortez fire and police departments investigate the fire on Main Street Sunday. This is a view of the back of the building where a flooring store, a shoe store and Cortez Works used to be housed.

Tobie Baker/The Cortez Journal

Fire fighters stand in front of the building that burned on Main Street Sunday morning. Enlargephoto

Tobie Baker/The Cortez Journal Fire fighters stand in front of the building that burned on Main Street Sunday morning.

TOBIE BAKER

Water leaks from a pressurized water plug Sunday. A fire on Main Street closed traffic till about noon. Enlargephoto

TOBIE BAKER Water leaks from a pressurized water plug Sunday. A fire on Main Street closed traffic till about noon.