FARGO - The owner of the Bison Turf says he can repair much of the fire damage at the bar and restaurant and reopen the northside landmark in 30 days, provided he gets quick action from city inspectors and his insurance adjuster.
Fargo's fire chief, however, thinks that timeline is unrealistic.
Turf owner Pete Sabo said he's walked through the building and it appears much of the damage from the intense blaze that broke out Friday, July 22, was restricted to the roof of the western half of the building.
Sabo said it appears the bar area is salvageable and that the walls of the bar and restaurant were not badly damaged by the fire and heavy smoke.
"Most of the building is still intact. It shouldn't be any problem" rebuilding, Sabo said. "And the whole east half of the building is still fine."
Firefighters were called to the Bison Turf, 1211 N. University Drive, about 2:18 p.m. Friday.
Flames were leaping from the western roof of the building and a thick column of black smoke rose above the neighborhood bar and grill, a mainstay watering hole for North Dakota State University students just east of campus.
Firefighters used a water cannon mounted on a tanker truck and another water cannon mounted on a ladder truck to fight the stubborn blaze as temperatures in the area hovered in the 90s.
Sabo said he hopes to have the bar open in 30 days and continue remodeling on the second floor, with everything done in time for the Bison Homecoming Oct. 1. He said an insurance adjuster will be here Thursday to estimate the damage.
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One big expense, beyond the obvious need for a new roof on the western half of the building, is to replace coolers, Sabo said. Water used to extinguish the blaze ran down into the basement and put the compressors of the coolers underwater, wrecking them, he said.
Fire Chief Steve Dirksen said the fire investigation could take a while.
"We're not at any point where we can tell anything. We're just still working through the building, through our investigation, trying to tell the point of origin," Dirksen said.
"The building, the way it was constructed and then added onto, makes that difficult. Actually, fighting the fire, it made that difficult," Dirksen said. "We won't have the investigation wrapped up within the next couple days. It probably will be closer to the end of the week or probably the following week yet."
Dirksen said it was tough to find where the fire had seeded itself throughout the roof.
"When we got through one roof, we found there was another roof," he said. "That's also causing a delay in finding the origin of the fire."
Temperatures in the 90s made it tough to fight the fire, Dirksen said.
"Our gear is made to disperse external heat. But it is not made to disperse internal heat generated by our body," he said. "You get hot pretty quick."
Fargo firefighters typically go to a cool-down rehab area after using two oxygen bottles. On Friday, they went to rehab after one bottle. They also used extra crews, Dirksen said.
Sabo may be a bit optimistic about his timeline to get the Bison Turf up and running again, Dirksen added.
"There's some pretty significant damage to the building," Dirksen said. "It's going to take a little more work to get that ready and operating again."
Sabo said he was at the Bison Turf when the fire started.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the cause of the fire was the exhaust fan in the kitchen. We smelled an electrical smell in the morning; a hot smell," he said.
Sabo said he's amazed by the interest the blaze has received. "It's overwhelming," he said. "We're getting hits on that video (posted on the Inforum web site) from all over the world."
Sabo said this is the first time he's had to deal with a setback this big in running a business, but he said he'll overcome it.
"I'm determined to reopen it and get the business up and running as soon as possible," Sabo said.