On The Job Arizona: Fire Destroys Three Businesses On Prescott's Historic Whiskey Row

On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, a two-alarm fire destroyed three businesses in downtown Prescott, AZ, on the historic Whiskey Row. A defensive attack was ordered and roof operations were stopped when firefighters discovered the

fire was running across concealed spaces in the common attic above the businesses.

The Type IV wood-frame building was constructed in 1948. It had lath and plaster interior walls, a wood-frame attic and a composite roof. Numerous modifications had been made to the building over the years.

The 5,000-square-foot building contained three businesses: the Prescott Food Store at 146 South Montezuma St., the Bird Cage Saloon at 148 South Montezuma and Larry and Hy’s Bare Bone BBQ restaurant at 150 South Montezuma. The three businesses shared a common attic. The exposures to the north and south of this building were of masonry block construction. On July 14, 1900, a fire sparked by a blacksmith destroyed the entire block of Whiskey Row, which got its name in the early 1900s, when more than 40 saloons lined the street.

Initial operations

The Prescott Fire Department was dispatched to a reported fire at Larry and Hy’s BBQ at 6:13 P.M. Engines 71 and 51 and Truck 72, a 75-foot quint, responded with nine firefighters under the command of Division Chief Don Devendorf. The Central Yavapai Fire District responded with Ladder 533, a 100-foot quint, and a crew of three on automatic mutual aid. Captain Scott Luedeman requested a second-alarm assignment while enroute to the scene as heavy smoke was showing.

First-arriving Engine 71 found a working fire in the attic of Larry and Hy’s BBQ. Engine 71 was positioned on the Alpha side of the structure and supplied with a 300-foot, four-inch line. The crew from this engine performed initial search and rescue and fire control operations.

Engine 51 was positioned next to Engine 71 and supplied with a 300-foot, four-inch line. Truck 72 was positioned on the Alpha side and set up for defensive operations. This unit was supplied with a 100-foot, four-inch line. Central Yavapai Ladder 533 was positioned on the Alpha side and set up for aerial master stream operations. This unit was supplied with a 300-foot, four-inch line. Limiting the growth of the fire and confining it to the building of origin was a primary objective in this area of historic buildings.

Firefighters advanced a 200-foot, 1¾-inch line from Engine 71 into the front door of Larry and Hy’s BBQ. The crew from Engine 71 experienced heavy smoke and heat conditions upon entry into the building. The crew found fire in what appeared to be the rear kitchen area. Engine 51’s crew advanced a 200-foot, 1¾-inch line to assist Engine 71’s crew with fire control operations. Engine 71’s crew also reported fire in the attic extending into the concealed space of the buildings along Whiskey Row.

Crew withdrawn from interior

The interior crew was evacuated from the building after approximately 10 minutes. Engine 74 also responded on the first alarm and was positioned in the alley behind Whiskey Row. This unit was supplied with a 400-foot, four-inch line. The crew from Engine 74 was assigned to the roof of the involved structure. Initially, it appeared there may have been a fire in the grease duct system of Larry and Hy’s BBQ. Crews from Engine 74 and Truck 72 were on the roof with a 200-foot, 1¾-inch line. Roof operations were quickly halted as firefighters discovered the main body of fire in the attic concealed spaces running across three businesses that shared a common attic.

Prescott Engines 73 and 75, Chino Valley Engine 62 and Central Yavapai Fire District Battalion 3 responded. Nine engine companies, two truck companies and a ladder company with more than 40 line personnel and multiple chief staff officers all responded to the fire.

A two-story motel on the south exposure was evacuated by Prescott Police Department officers. Approximately 10 occupants were evacuated and taken to a safe location across the street until they were assisted by the local community.

As fire operations continued, the commanding officer, Devendorf requested a general recall at 6:45 P.M. Approximately 10 off-duty personnel responded to staff reserve apparatus for other responses. The Groom Creek and Chino Valley fire districts each responded with an engine and three personnel to provide additional move-up coverage.

Defensive operations

Prescott Truck 71 was positioned in the rear alley and supplied with a 100-foot, four-inch line. Defensive operations included two aerial master streams on the Alpha side and one aerial master stream and one deck gun on the Charlie side. Each master stream was operating at 1,000 gpm. Four 2½-inch lines were left in service and used as needed on both the Alpha and Charlie sides of the incident.

Operations Chief Ralph Lucas declared the fire under control at 9 P.M. Mutual aid departments were released at midnight. The last Prescott units left the scene at 4 P.M. on May 9.

More than 50 firefighters operated nine engines, three aerial devices, one deck gun and four handlines at the scene. Five hydrants on the municipal water system supplied 750,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire. The temperature at the time of the fire was 70 degrees with light winds. There were no firefighter or civilian injuries. Firefighters contained the fire to the building of origin without any extension to the other buildings in the historic area.

An investigation by the Prescott Fire Department, Central Yavapai Fire District and Maricopa County Fire Investigation Task Force determined that the cause of the fire was accidental. Damage was estimated at $1 million to the building and $1 million to the contents. n