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Bright flames cause rude awakening for city of Bisbee

Firefighters fending off the Bisbee City Hall fire last Wednesday. Photo provided by Bisbee Police Chief Albert Echave

The City of Bisbee experienced a rude awakening on the morning of Oct. 11 as the town’s City Hall became incinerated in flames, but the historical documents within should be preservable, authorities said.

Bisbee Police Chief Albert Echave confirmed that no historical or major project information was damaged in the fire.

 “We were actually able to get into the vault and it does look like a lot of that stuff is still intact, might be a little wet, so there’s going to be some process that we will go through to preserve that stuff but it was not destroyed in the fire,” Echave said.

The fire started around 1 a.m., with  Bisbee Fire Department being the first to arrive, and was later assisted by firefighters from other departments. Douglas, Palominas, Fry, San Jose, Whetstone, Sunnyside Fire departments helped exterminate the fire, officials said. The cause is still unknown.

Bisbee Fire Chief George Castillo said that one of his officers arrived first and confirmed that there was heavy smoke coming from the second floor.

“They went inside to attack the fire, they went upstairs to the second floor, while they were upstairs they saw the fire and it was roaring pretty good,” Castillo said.  He added that after they saw the flames, he told his men to get out and they went into a defensive mode.

 

Information that was stored on the computers was saved, as Castillo sent his men in with a charge line to extract the servers.

“I decided to send a team in and we did a two in, two out, we had two people go in, and then two right next to the door in case their was an issue,” Castillo said.  He added that they did that three times to get all of the servers out.

According to Castillo, Bisbee City Hall has a false ceiling, which can cause the conditions of the fire to worsen. “A lot of these old buildings have false ceilings, and once the fire gets up into the fall ceiling, it just runs it,” Castillo said.

Although the origin of the fire is unknown, Smith noted the building has been worked on recently. 

“We have been undergoing some cosmetic renovations at the time,” he said. “The investigation that the sheriff’s office is conducting I’m sure will be able to locate the point of origin for the flames.” Smith said he could not speculate what started the fire.

According the Echave, a structural engineer said that there is hope the building can be salvaged and repaired, but does not know for sure.

Bisbee’s City Hall was built in 1909 by the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company and was the first concrete building constructed in Arizona.

Garrett Green is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona.  Contact him at garrettgreen@email.arizona.edu