If we’ve learned anything the past couple of years, it’s that there’s no such thing as a harmless fire. After two summers of devastation, our anxiety threshold has been lowered to the point that even small, quickly dispatched fires cause fleeting psychological trauma. Structure fires have become associated with wildfires as a result of our recent experiences. When the woods and shrub steppe burn, buildings burn too.
Then comes a reminder that fire can leave its mark on a community at any time. Early Monday morning, a blaze broke out at the Twisp River Pub, causing so much damage that it’s unclear when the restaurant/bar/brew pub will be able to re-open.
This one hurts in a lot of ways.
Owner Aaron Studen has made the pub a community asset not only as a popular eatery but also as a venue for many different kinds of entertainment and events, including fundraisers and “First Tuesday” programs presented by the Methow Conservancy. The pub makes popular ales, caters events and sponsors a variety of community activities. Studen also is a member of the Twisp Town Council, a role that takes more time and energy than most residents realize.
Fire has taken an extraordinary toll in Studen’s life. His family lost its home in the fires of 2014, and the pub lost thousands of dollars worth of business and spoiled food during the power outage. Twisp’s last major fire of note was in 2001 when the Methow Valley Brewing Co. — also owned by Studen — was destroyed by fire. It had occupied the former Twisp Creamery, which stood in the still-empty lot across Second Avenue from the Methow Valley Inn.
On Monday morning, as the acrid odor of smoke wafted from the charred portions of the pub, Studen was already thinking about how soon he might be able to get back in business, and what he might salvage.
That’s not a self-serving attitude. Studen employs about 25 people this time of year, when the pub’s hours are limited, and about 35 during the summer when it is open full-time and the outdoor deck is crowded. Finding other jobs won’t be easy for those displaced workers.
The Methow Valley’s businesses in the aggregate create a critical mass of attractions for visitors. What affects one of us affects us all. Losing even one restaurant or lodging establishment has an impact — on employees, on tax revenues, on visitors (and residents) looking for a variety of options.
On the positive side, if we want to look at it that way, sympathetic response to the fire from near and far demonstrates just how much people care about the Methow. Postings about the fire on the Methow Valley News website and Facebook page generated thousands of viewers, many of whom offered their thoughts and support. As with the fires of the past two summers, we are amazed and gratified at the widespread interest in — and love for — the Methow Valley well beyond its relatively remote confines.
With its typical resilience, the Methow usually regroups and rebuilds. The pub fire in 2001 is something of an aberration. When the hotel on the site of the Rio Vista in Winthrop burned down, it was replaced. So was the Tenderfoot in Winthrop, after it was damaged in a major fire.
The big black raven is still hovering over the Twisp River Pub’s entrance. As a community, we can look forward to the day it welcomes us back.
So far we have about half-a-dozen applicants to succeed Bob Spiwak as the Methow Valley News community columnist for Mazama. All of them are enthusiastic and offer something unique. It’s going to take a couple of weeks to interview people and make a choice — sure to be difficult — so we appreciate your patience in the mean time.