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Fire destroys Sandpoint building

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | February 24, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Fueled by wind gusts, a fire in the early morning hours Thursday quickly spread through a commercial structure on the north side of town and resulted in a total loss of the building.

When Selkirk Fire crews responded to the report of the commercial structure fire at Wes Olson Trucking, 1424 Baldy Mountain Road, heavy smoke was showing from the roof, Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said in a press release.

Selkirk Fire is a shared fire services collaboration of the city of Sandpoint, Westside and Sagle fire districts. Backup assistance was requested and received from Northside Fire, West Pend Oreille Fire and Bonner County EMS.

Fueled by strong wind gusts, the rapidly progressing fire prevented crews from entering the building and ultimately resulted in a total loss of the building, Stapleton said. However, fire crews successfully contained the fire to Wes Olson Trucking building, preventing the fire from spreading to four buildings in close proximity.

“Our crews did an amazing job in these conditions,” Fire Chief Gavin Gilcrease said. “At one point, the windchill with the strong gusts was at -21 degrees.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Idaho State Fire Marshal.

The last time a fire struck the city’s business district was on Feb. 11, 2019, when a fire was reported in the heart of the city’s historic downtown and prompted an all-out response from firefighters from Selkirk Fire Rescue & EMS and fire district throughout Bonner County and part of Kootenai County.

When firefighters arrived on scene, they found smoke emanating from the roof and fire consuming the interior as snow and 11-degree temperatures challenged the fire crews. Firefighters inside the building encountered cramped conditions, vintage construction, and years of remodeling.

After three hours of battling the blaze, the crews were forced to resort to defensive measures after concerns arose about the stability of the century-old structures. A third building housing Grace Sandpoint Church and Grace Sandpoint Bible College sustained heavy smoke and water damage. In total, five businesses were lost to the blaze — The Hound, Headlines Salon, Sandpoint Tattoo and Body Piercing, The Chocolate Bear and China Kitchen.

Investigators concluded the fire started in the basement of 204 N. First, between the lower-level ceiling and the first-level floor, fire marshal’s officials said a few months after the fire.

The building that burned, which began its life as a saloon space during the city’s wilder, turn-of-the-century days, 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.