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Inferno in Uptown Kellogg

by CHANSE WATSON & JOSH MCDONALD
Managing Editor | August 29, 2017 8:00 PM

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Shoshone County Firefighter Joe Anderson shoots water at the raging inferno.

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Deputy Jeremey Groves and firefighter Travis Costa run to evacuate people in adjacent buildings.

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Firefighters attack the south side of the McConnell as the fire picks up.

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Fire Chief Aamodt watches in horror as the hillside to the south of the McConnell is ignited after some strong winds.

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The blaze was too much. Flames at one point stretched to almost 1,000 feet in the air.

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Even heros need to be able to breathe. Firefighter Mike North takes a rest and grabs some water.

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Firefighters put out the fire inside of Silver Valley SignWorks.

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Photo by Chanse Watson/ A view of the McConnell Hotel's basement. A wooden support beam crackels with flames.

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Photo by Chanse Watson/ Kootenai County Fire & Rescue's ladder truck prepares to hose down roofs in uptown with the sun setting in the background.

KELLOGG — Silver Valley residents and first responders watched helplessly Tuesday afternoon as a local historical treasure went up in flames.

Kjell Truesdell, acting spokesperson for Shoshone County Fire District No.2 (SCFD2) and Fire Warden with the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) in Cataldo, reports that on Aug. 29 at approximately 2:59 p.m., fire crews responded to a large structural fire that had broken out inside the McConnell Hotel building on Main Street in Kellogg.

Witnesses say that they saw the fire start near the top of the hotel, spawning flames that reached an estimated 1,000 feet into the air, then work its way to the ground floor.

With help from an eastern moving wind, embers from the primary blaze at the hotel then ignited another ferocious fire at approximately 3:14 p.m. on top of the old Patrick’s Steakhouse building on Division Street across from the Kellogg Post Office.

Due to their proximity to the hotel, the neighboring rooftops of Silver Valley SignWorks, Salon 107, Wells Fargo Bank, Papa’s Barn, and Pizza Palace also caught fire.

The hillside to the Southwest of the hotel also ignited due to the intense heat, but was extinguished by IDL fire crews before it could spread.

Fire crews from Shoshone County Fire Districts 2 and 1 were first on scene, but were then quickly reinforced by personnel from the Mullan Volunteer Fire Department, Prichard/Murray Volunteer Fire Department, St. Maries Fire Department, and Kootenai County Fire & Rescue (KCFR).

At roughly 3:45 p.m., the front wall of the old hotel collapsed- causing dust and debris to cover Main Street make an already smoky environment worse.

The multiple fires spread the fire crews thin, but by 4:15 p.m., partial containment of the fires had been achieved and focus shifted to preventing the flames from igniting anything else.

The fire inside the steakhouse building was particularly hazardous, as it is in the middle of a residential neighborhood and was filling the entire area with extremely noxious smoke.

Crews had to put out several small spot fires in addition to the large ones on rooftops and lawns as far as three blocks away from the ignition source.

Some local business owners took it upon themselves to spray their rooftops down to ensure that they too would not catch on fire.

At the time of the fire, the hotel had no occupants and few items inside.

The fire was able to move freely throughout the building as the inside structure was made of nothing but flooring and studs.

Fire officials have declared the structure a total loss but have not released an official cause for the fire at this time.

Injuries associated with the fires included a Shoshone County Sheriff’s Deputy, Captain Jeremy Groves, who was admitted to Shoshone Medical Center with burns to his hand and heat exhaustion.

Another firefighter exasperated an old leg injury while on working, and several other first responders and volunteers were treated on scene for smoke inhalation.

With the help of KCFR’s ladder truck and IDL’s Unmanned Aerial System, officials continued to watch the area for any other secondary fires into the night.

With hot temperatures, windy conditions, and the close proximity of the buildings in uptown Kellogg- it is nothing short of a miracle that the fire was confined to the areas it affected.

Truesdell was saddened that more could not be done to save the affected structures, but stressed that thing could have been much worse without the actions of our local fire fighters.

“Its sad to see a historic building like this in Kellogg become a shell, but boy-howdy, there’s some businesses and everything else (that could have been destroyed),” he said.

“The firefighters and their quick response- they did their job and put the water where it needed to be and got things locked down.”