Firefighters responded to downtown Kalispell around 6 a.m. Wednesday to battle a blaze in a building at the southeast corner of Main and Center streets.
At about 7:15 a.m. the blaze seemed to be confined to a one-story section of the Re/Max Glacier Country building that stretches along Center Street as an addition to the larger building at 1 Main Street. By 10 a.m., firefighters were cleaning up while they kept a close eye for restarts.
Kalispell Assistant Fire Chief Jon Campbell said the fire appeared to be in the attic of the one-story building and that the circumstances required firefighters to train hoses on the area from the building’s exterior.
“Hopefully to get enough water on it to drown it,” Campbell said.
Campbell said fire crews were first alerted after people passing by saw smoke and flames inside the structure.
Campbell later said the fire and resulting smoke was so intense that firefighters had to briefly retreat before re-engaging the blaze. Campbell said there were no injuries to people who lived in the apartments above the adjacent building or to firefighters.
He also said the firefighters’ immediate concern was preventing the fire’s spread to adjacent buildings, which he said they did.
Doug Denmark, owner of Re/Max Glacier Country, was remarkably upbeat afterward.
“Re/Max Glacier Country is fine, we’re still doing business and we’ll stay in that location because 1 Main Street has been great for us,” Denmark said.
Denmark said he didn’t know the exact cause, but firefighters told him that something had caught fire during the night.
“We’re well insured and just because we don’t have an office right now, doesn’t mean we still aren’t functioning well,” Denmark said. “We’ve embraced technology and we can do so much from our cars and our homes, some of our more experienced brokers rarely come to the office.”
The outpouring of support has meant a great deal to Denmark.
“One of the first people to show up this morning was my first customer,” Denmark said. “He offered us office space and we’ve also had offers from about half a dozen of our competitors to give us office space, it’s just been amazing.
“We’re sad that our neighbors have had to suffer the smoke, but we’re also very thankful because no one was hurt and that’s the most important thing,” Denmark said.
Denmark said he and his wife bought the building from the city of Kalispell in 1998 and they will rebuild there. Denmark said if clients or new customers have questions, he can be reached at 406-250-8540.
Police closed sections of Main and Center streets to vehicle traffic as firefighters fought the fire. In addition to Kalispell, other fire departments responding to the blaze included West Valley, Evergreen, Smith Valley, South Kalispell and Whitefish.
Paul Roybal, owner of Roybal’s Abbey Carpet and Floor on South Main Street, was at the scene. His building is very close to the Re/Max/Glacier Country building.
Campbell told Roybal his building seemed to be out of danger as of about 7 a.m.
Roybal said before he bought his building in December 2012, he had researched records and found it had burned in 1976.
“You can still see burn marks upstairs from when it happened,” Roybal said.
Roybal said when he got a call about the fire from a friend who thought his building may have been on fire, it was “not a good feeling.”
“I was calling neighbors to make sure they were out of the buildings because I didn’t know what was happening,” Roybal said. “There was quite a bit of smoke inside and the carbon monoxide detectors were going off, so I got out of there.”
Noble Dance Studio, a business located between ReMax and Abbey Carpet, had smoke in it.
“We definitely had smoke inside, but that seems to be it,” studio owner Natalie Molter said.
She said there are three apartments above her building.
Dayspring Restoration, which has been working on the cleanup work at the St. Matthew’s Church in Kalispell after it burned in May, was able to bring several industrial fans to the Roybal’s and Noble Dance Studio to help clear out the smoke.
A little before 10 a.m., the smoke odor was clearly less than what it had been a few hours before, according to Roybal.
Campbell said he was satisfied with how firefighters handled the blaze and was “glad it wasn’t a lot worse, because it could have been.”
He said a cause of the fire had not been determined and that it is under investigation.