Colorado Fire Burns Landmark Mall

ESTES PARK, Colo. --

A fire destroyed a major landmark in downtown Estes Park Monday morning, gutting the Park Theatre Mall but sparing the historic Park Theatre.

The two-alarm fire apparently began in the Park Theater Mall at about 6:21 a.m. Upon arrival, firefighters reported seeing flames breaking through the roof on the west side of the mall building.

No fire alarms or sprinkler systems had been installed in the building, the city of Estes Park said in a news release. The Estes Park mayor said the original building predated the incorporation of Estes Park in 1917.

"You just wanted to sit there and cry. It was so sad for everyone in Estes Park," said Marsha Hobert, owner of Photos By Marsha. "I've been here 28 years and I've never seen a fire this bad."

The fire, located at 116 East Elkhorn Ave in downtown Estes Park was contained to the mall itself and did not spread to the adjoining buildings. The "leg" of the L-shaped building that contains the movie theatre did not appear to have been damaged, said Sue Pinkham, a spokeswoman for Estes Park Volunteer Fire Department.

The building, which dates back to 1914, was originally a carriage house and livery. More recently, the building was converted into stores.

No injuries have been reported.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Heavy smoke could be seen rising hundreds of feet in the air over the downtown area early Monday, as residents watched from a nearby rocky knoll. Several ladder trucks sprayed water on the fire from high above the blaze.

All available fire personnel in Estes Park were dispatched to fight the fire. Allenspark, Loveland, Pinewood Springs, and Glen Haven fire departments were also called in to assist.

"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."

The Estes Park Police Department evacuated neighboring businesses on Elkhorn Avenue early in the morning, and electric service was suspended to the area for safety concerns. The power is expected to be restored by 2 p.m.

Light drizzle was falling in the town and the fire appeared contained at 9:30 a.m., although the fire continued to burn the inside of the building at 11 a.m.

The tower that everybody sees in town -- part of the iconic Park Theatre -- didn't get touched by flames.

"It's a very emotional time, I think, for the whole town," said business owner Dana Kortokrax. "We'll find a way to survive it."

Business in the mall include the Intrigue Gift Shop, Mountain Blown Glass, Kelly, Deleo's Park Theater Deli, Colorado Hats and Company, The Last Outpost, 14'ers Café, Mountain Classics, Musicbox Collection, The Spectrum Gallery, Home for the Holidays, Old Time Photos, the Historic Park Theatre, Wynbrier Wildlife Gallery and The Hiking Hut.

"Our hearts go out to our friends who have lost businesses. We are grateful that through the efforts of firefighters and rescue workers, so many other businesses were spared. We know that the community will rally around those hurt by this tragedy. We are also extremely proud of our firefighters as well as the out-of-town assistance requested and received in such short notice," said Peggy Campbell, executive director of the Estes Park Local Marketing District.

Elkhorn Avenue is closed from U.S. Highway 34/36 to the west end of Elkhorn at Spruce Drive, to allow fire department access. Detours have been established so people are able to drive in to Rocky Mountain National Park and other locations in Estes Park.

Estes Park is located in Larimer County, at the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. It is a popular tourist destination.

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