HOT SPRINGS, S.D. (AP) – The smell of smoke is still evident in Hot Springs following a Monday night fire that destroyed a downtown sandstone building housing 4 businesses. The Vault, China Buffet, Heartsong Quilts, and Gus’ Best Ice Cream were all popular spots in the 300 block of River Street in the town’s historic district.
Hot Springs Fire Chief Dar Coy says the first call came in a little after 8:30 Monday night with over 50 firefighters eventually responding from multiple agencies. Chief Coy says the blaze began in The Vault, but when firefighters tried to reach the upstairs, they couldn’t because “it was too hot, too much smoke, too much fire.”
Chief Coy says firefighters then changed tactics and started hitting the fire from the outside the 115-year old structure. They were able to keep it from spreading to other buildings or to propane tanks in the rear, but the iconic sandstone became brittle from the intense heat.
Firefighters remained on the scene most of the day and River Street remained for several hours after the fire was extinguished. The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the blaze.
Hot Springs Mayor George Kotti told reporters that he and others were “obviously very devastated” by the loss because the area is the heart of the downtown business district, but that the city and its residents are ready to step up and help out any way they can.
Kotti said the first thing one of the affected business owners told him was that he was going to rebuild, an attitude the mayor said that “epitomizes the way we want to face this.”
Kotti described Hot Springs as a community that “whenever a situation like this develops, we pull together and we’ll get through it” – although he did ask reporters to keep the town in their prayers.