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Buffalo Chip Saloon destroyed by fire; arson suspected

12/3/2015

Elizabeth Medora
Staff

CAVE CREEK – The Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse burned down in a first-alarm fire on Nov 26. The fire is now being investigated as arson.

“The fire is being considered arson; however, we are still investigating leads in the case,” said Officer Christopher Hegstrom of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Hegstrom noted that anyone with information on the fire should call MCSO at (602) 876-1011.

Rural/Metro fire crews responded to two fires at the Buffalo Chip on Thanksgiving morning, starting with an early morning fire, after a call came in reporting visible smoke at the building. Crews were dispatched at 6:43 a.m.

Rural/Metro Public Information Officer Colin Williams noted that firefighters found a “situation in the bathroom” and were able to extinguish the fire. Due to the nature of that fire, firefighters contacted MCSO arson investigators.

MCSO officers were on-scene at the Buffalo Chip after the 6:43 a.m. fire and noticed smoke. They evacuated the building and called for fire crews, this time at 9:17 a.m. Rural/Metro crews responded within about 90 seconds, according to Williams.

As soon as fire crews came on-scene, they saw a large, active column of smoke coming up from the roof in the center of the Buffalo Chip. Williams noted that the call was deemed a “first alarm assignment.” Crews from Daisy Mountain, Phoenix, and Scottsdale Fire Departments came out to assist Rural/Metro crews in fighting the blaze.

“At the height of the incident, there were over 100 firefighters on the scene,” Williams said.

The Buffalo Chip building was originally constructed over 60 years ago, and the building, which was mainly wood, had no fire sprinklers. Williams described the building as having a lot of combustible material, such as wood furniture, inside. The building was up to fire code, having been grandfathered in due to its age.

While the front of the building is considered a total loss, Williams noted that part of the main original building in the back was untouched by the fire. A wooden structure near the bull riding area was also salvaged when firefighters used chainsaws to cut down the connection to the original building.

“Firefighters cut that away to prevent the fire from spreading from the building to that outdoor food service area,” Williams noted.

Investigators are now working to determine the cause of the two fires and if the two fires are connected. Currently, the investigation is looking at where the second fire was located in relation to the first. Evidence indicates that embers of the first fire could not possibly have ignited the second fire.

“Crews on the scene used thermal imaging cameras to check for any hot spots,” Williams said, describing the steps taken to make sure the 6:43 a.m. fire was out. He described the fires as “under investigation,” noting that the first fire was being investigated “from the onset.”

“We know somebody was trying to light that building on fire,” Williams said.

One firefighter was injured at the scene and was transported to a local hospital. He has since been released from the hospital. No other injuries were reported.

The Buffalo Chip fire gained national attention over the weekend, and fans expressed their sadness at the fire and hope that the restaurant would soon be rebuilt.

Buffalo Chip owner Larry Wendt released a statement regarding the fire, thanking the community for its support and condolences.

“At this point, we are temporarily closed and will have any updates posted on the Buffalo Chip website (www.buffalochipsaloon.com) from this point forward,” the statement says. “We have set up an account to support the staff through this tragic time. Anyone interested in donating can contact Parkway Bank – “Buffalo Chip Employee Fund” – 480-488-4440.”

The Buffalo Chip staff has already expressed the intention of rebuilding the restaurant, both in the statement and on their Facebook page.

“We look forward to our rebuild and the bright future of The Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse,” the statement concludes.

Stay updated on Buffalo Chip rebuilding efforts by following their Facebook page: Facebook.com, search Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse or their Web site: www.buffalochipsaloon.com.