Fire Destroys Park Theater Mall
By: Kris Hazelton
The historic Park Theatre Mall has been completely destroyed as a result of a fire that started in the building early Monday morning.
Estes Park Police Dispatch received the first report of a structure fire at 116 East Elkhorn Ave. at 6:19 a.m. and the Estes Park Volunteer Fire Department responded at 6:21 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters reported seeing fire breaking through the roof on the west side of the mall building.
The Estes Park Police Department evacuated neighboring businesses on Elkhorn Avenue and electric service was suspended to the area for safety concerns.
Also, when the fire started, firefighters sent out an emergency alert to businesses for people to get out. Fortunately the fire started very early and many of the businesses were not yet open. There are apartments above some of the businesses and firefighters had to scramble to evacuate them.
Thick smoke from the fire quickly filled the town.
The building was originally a carriage house and livery; it then became a pottery factory. It was remodeled in the 1970s to become a mall and the building was converted into separate stores. No fire alarms or sprinkler systems had been installed in the building, which was home to twelve businesses.
Due to the construction of the building, firefighters – which included responders from Estes Park, Loveland Fire Rescue, Pinewood Springs Fire District, Allenspark Fire District, and Glen Haven Fire District-were forced to fight the flames from the outside of the building with ladder trucks, aerials and snorkel apparatus.
“Because it had a metal roof and because of the construction of the roof, firefighters were not allowed to get on the roof or go into the building,” said Sue Pinkham, PIO for the Estes Park Fire Volunteer Fire Dept. She added, “They needed to use what we would call the ‘surround and drown’ method.”
While the fire was raging, road crews closed Highway 34 heading to Estes Park from Loveland and Highway 36 from Lyons. It reopened before 11 a.m. All of the schools in the area were locked down while the fire was burning.
“This is a very big tragedy for my family,” Park Theatre Mall owner Sharon Seeley said. Seeley’s family has owned the mall for the last 25 years. She has an upper-level apartment in the mall, but wasn’t home at the time of the fire. Seeley says she will rebuild.
Larimer County Sheriff’s officials assisted the Estes Park Police Department in directing traffic and closing the surrounding streets. Estes Park Police Auxiliary assisted as well. Town of Estes Park Streets, Parks, Water and Light & Power Departments assisted with water quality concerns, placing warning cones, and other safety issues.
No one was hurt in the firefight and it isn’t clear at this time what started the fire. The fire was contained to the mall itself, and did not spread to the adjoining buildings.
“We are very grateful for the prompt response of the Estes Park Volunteer Fire Department, which helped minimize the spread of the fire,” said Mayor Bill Pinkham, “This incident demonstrates the importance of having a properly trained, dedicated, and well-equipped fire department. It was fortunate that the weather cooperated and we did not have high winds.” “We also appreciate the cooperation and support of our neighboring agencies who pitched in during this critical time.” Pinkham added.
The shop owners said they have enormous gratitude to the volunteer firefighters who battled the fire.
It could be days before authorities reveal what caused a massive fire that burned this landmark mall. ATF officials arrived in town this week and are currently investigating the fire. (see page 4).
The town currently does not have a fire code and the building that was gutted by the two-alarm blaze did not have fire sprinklers.
Fire Chief Scott Dorman said this blaze- which destroyed the Park Theatre Mall- might be the catalyst that prompts the town to adopt a fire code.
More photos on pages 27-30