Cooperative effort saves restaurant

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Still standing

Despite the scare of a catastrophic fire Monday morning, Sparky’s Garage surived with minimal damage and will reopen. J.P. Plutt photo

Dillon Police Officer Quinton Wheatley is the hero of the week. While on patrol in the early morning hours on Monday, the officer noticed smoke emitting from Sparky’s Garage, a popular restaurant near the UMW campus at 420 E. Poindexter Street. Wheatley stopped to investigate and noticed flames through the window. He immediately called in the fire.

The call went to dispatch at 1 a.m., and the Dillon Volunteer Fire Department responded immediately with men on the scene within 10 minutes of the call-out. By the time Sparky’s Garage representative Marcus Drew arrived at 1:20, multiple DVFD vehicles and men were on the scene and engaging the fire.

“The response from the Dillon PD and calling that in, and the response from the fire department was amazing,” said Drew, who operates the restaurant on behalf of his family’s corporation. “The state fire marshal said that if it went another 15-20 minutes, we wouldn’t have had a building to save. We can’t say enough about the excellent job that they did.”

Drew said he has arranged for a restoration company to come in to start the clean-up at which time it would be easier to assess the damage. He felt the duration of the fix would be dependent upon their ability to find replacement equipment, contractors and other materials.

“Considering the circumstances, things are very good and we’re going to rebuild and be back and ready for business as soon as we can,” concluded Drew.

DVFD Chief B.J. Klose emphasized the cooperative nature of Dillon’s responders came together to minimize the damage of what could have been a complete loss event. Klose said officer Wheatley’s professional reaction after discovering the fire allowed events to unfold in a positive manner. Klose felt if Wheatley had called in the fire five minutes later, it could have been a completely different story.

“My hat is off to law enforcement,” said Klose. “We’ve been doing training with them and they did an excellent job of not opening it up to expose the fire to more oxygen, which would have accelerated the spread of the fire.”

Klose commended Beaverhead EMS for having an ambulance on scene within 10 minutes to monitor firefighters who excited the building with expiring oxygen tanks. Another key action in the chief’s mind was the response of Dillon-based Northwest Energy employees Kenny Walker and John Shukle. Klose said the technicians were on scene immediately to disconnect the electrical and gas service to allow the firefighters to continue without the concern of problems with the utilities.

Klose added that both the Dillon Police Department and the Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Department offered assistance on scene.

“They were right on top of where they needed to be and did a great job of assessing,” said Klose of the 15 volunteer firefighters who responded to the call. “The state fire marshal highly commended the group for being able to save the structure with a fire that was that involved. The whole group did exactly what they needed to do. Training paid off.”

The DVFD response included six pieces of apparatus - ladder truck, two structure engines, rescue truck and two support rigs.

“The quick response saved a total loss, confirmed by the state fire marshal,” said Klose.

The impressive reaction to Monday morning’s fire is made even more impressive when considering the group’s busy schedule of nine call-outs in 10 days as of Monday.

According to Klose, the state fire marshal has determined the fire started in the laundry room directly behind the kitchen. Klose said the fire started at a dryer. Since the report has not yet been submitted, Klose said it is not clear if the ignition was due to electrical malfunction or some other cause.

Klose said the fire was on the verge of getting up into the ceiling, but did not. He added that the flames were also on the verge of breaching into the dining area but did not. He said the kitchen area was severely damaged, and that the bulk of the damage was caused by heat and smoke. He added that the firefighters battled the blaze minimizing water application to minimize damage.

“They were very conscientious,” said Drew. “They breached two doors to get in, but they are fixable. They didn’t break down the big doors, we were able to unlock them. They did an outstanding job.”