An early-morning fire Sunday shuttered about a dozen businesses and offices in the historic Newman Building - just a block from the site of another blaze a little over a year ago.
Firefighters responded to the 800 block of Main Avenue at 7:28 a.m. Smoke billowed from the roof for more than 30 minutes while firefighters battled the fire from ladders. All streets around the building were blocked, and all on-duty fire personnel were called to respond. Off-duty firefighters also were called in.
The three-story building, listed on the National Historic Register in 1979, is home to businesses including Joel's bar, Colorado Pongas pool hall and The Silk Sparrow clothing shop, as well as numerous offices, among them the Durango office for U.S. Rep. John Salazar.
Durango Fire & Rescue Authority Chief Dan Noonan said no one was injured in the fire. The building's exterior appeared almost unscathed.
In a statement later, the department said the cause of the fire was under investigation but appeared to have started in the void space above Joel's, where utilities feed the building. The bar is located on the ground level, facing west Eighth Street.
"The fire was spreading rapidly, moving horizontally and vertically," the statement said. "The fire was attacked aggressively on the first and second floors while an additional DFRA crew went to the roof to open the skylights and the roof, venting out the accumulated heat and toxic gasses."
As firefighters doused hot spots, the building's many tenants gathered at Season's Rotisserie & Grill, which just reopened last month in a wholly reconstructed building in the 700 block of Main Avenue. Though the restaurant doesn't normally open until dinner Sunday, owner Karen Barger and some staff came in early to serve breakfast and coffee as they waited tensely for word.
"It seemed like the right thing to do," she said.
Once the building was safe, firefighters allowed some of the building's tenants in.
Susan Hammons, one of four co-owners of the building, said there was a great deal of smoke and water damage.
Attorney Michael McLachlan, whose firm McLachlan & Underell is on the third floor, said there was smoke and some water damage in the firm's offices, but they were still assessing the extent. Employees of the firm planned to gather downtown for breakfast to come up with a plan.
"We don't know what we're going to do yet," he said. "We're obviously going to continue to practice."
Silk Sparrow owner Sarah Rousseau said she felt fortunate the women's clothing shop suffered little more than smoke damage, though she was told it would be more than a week before the electricity was turned back on.
"We got really lucky," she said.
Rousseau praised authorities' quick response.
"I was amazed at how organized and fast the fire department was," she said.
Dave Abercrombie, DFRA spokesman, said a large perimeter was established to ensure the public wasn't endangered. He said last year's fire, which resulted in the injury of nine firefighters, caught them off guard when it exploded, sending shattered glass and debris across the street where a crowd of onlookers had gathered.
"We're not going to let that happen again," he said.
In addition to DFRA, Upper Pine River and Los Pinos fire protection districts responded, as well as Durango Police, La Plata County Sheriff's deputies and the American Red Cross.
The Steaming Bean and Starbucks also provided support to responders, DFRA's statement said.
According to the Animas Museum's walking tour bro-chure of downtown, the Romanesque sandstone Newman Building was built in 1892 by Charles Newman and was home to Smelter National Bank in the late 1800s.
The low building attached to the back of the building was called Durango Novelty Works and was the garage for some of the first cars in the area, the brochure said.
Herald staff writer Ted Holteen contributed to this story.