By Don Nelson
An early morning blaze on Monday (Feb. 29) caused extensive damage to the Twisp River Pub on Highway 20.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. According to Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow, a fire investigator from Douglas County was expected to arrive in Twisp on Monday to begin probing the cause of the blaze.
Pub owner Aaron Studen said Monday that most of the damage was in the rear of the building, including his office and a storage area for catering equipment. He lost computers, business records and other documents.
Studen estimated the total damage at “several hundred thousand dollars.”
Most of the pub’s brewing equipment is undamaged, he said, because it is made of stainless steel. The brewery and kitchen escaped extensive damage, although the refrigeration unit was destroyed. There is smoke damage throughout the building including the dining area, Studen said.
There was about $10,000 worth of beer in kegs and tanks in the building, Studen said. He wasn’t sure how much of it would be salvageable.
Studen said the fire was first reported at around 2 a.m. when a nearby resident heard an explosion and called 911. Studen, who lives just a few minutes away, arrived shortly after that. He said the rear of the building was “totally engulfed in flames” when he arrived and smoke was pouring out of the front entrance. “The firefighters were trying to keep it from spreading,” he said.
Repairing the damage will be a “long road,” said Studen, who employed 25 people at the pub. He said he was hopeful the restaurant could be re-opened in time for the summer tourism season, when he typically employs about 35 people.
Employees Leland Swaner and Kaydi Coulter were at the scene Monday morning. Swaner, a cook at the pub, said a car that was destroyed by the fire was his and that he had only owned it for a couple of weeks.
Swaner noted that similar jobs are hard to come by locally. “We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do to pay the bills,” he said.
The entire Okanogan Fire District 6 force was called out for the fire, and mutual aid was requested from District 15 units out of Pateros and Brewster.
Brewster police officer Rory Williams was also on hand helping hotel employees evacuate nearby Twisp River Suites. Guests have since returned to their rooms.
The fire caused the temporary closure of Highway 20, which was later reopened with one-lane traffic. Bud Hover, transportation director for the Methow Valley School District, said all buses were running on schedule Monday morning.
Darla Hussey contributed to this article.