Fire causes extensive damage to City Hall in Bisbee

Published: Oct. 11, 2017 at 10:49 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 11:15 AM MST
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BISBEE, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Clean up continues on Wednesday night after a massive fire broke out at the Bisbee City Hall, just after 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

It's been 20 hours since smoked poured out of City Hall, but the work is far from over. Now several city offices are being relocated.

Fire crews said there are still a lot of hot spots within the building. Tucson News Now talked to a family who lives directly across the street and said the situation has been extremely scary.

"They were just coming up, out of the ceiling out of the roof," Bisbee resident, Rose Millspaugh said.

Rose Millspaugh and her husband were sound asleep when ten foot flames shot out of City Hall as the roof collapsed into the building.
"I just jumped right out of bed and ran out. It was surreal to see the building on fire," Millspaugh said.

"The flames were really big, you could probably see them for miles. The smell was just horrendous," said Holly Reed, a resident who lives just behind city hall.

Reed at one point believed that she would have to evacuate.

"I ran to get our suitcases ready, just in case we had to leave at any moment," said Reed, who has lived in Bisbee for nearly two years. Thankfully that moment never came.

Fire crews from eight different agencies worked frantically to get the upper hand, but it was a difficult fight. With help from several different fire agencies, crews were able to put the fire out after six hours.

"They attempted to extinguish it – but the conditions got very hot. We told them to exit the building and went into a defensive mode," Bisbee Fire Chief, Jorge Castillo said.

"It is devastating. It's a loss," said Chief Echave. "Everything was in that building and we have a burned roof from the first floor and out the ceiling."

City Mayor David Smith told Tucson News Now the National Historic Building was more than 100 years old. It had no sprinkler system. Luckily crews were able to save vital records and computer servers. Smith said fire crews used more than one million gallons of water to get it under control. For Millspaugh, she's grateful to the first responders who stopped it from spreading and saved her home, but said it's still difficult to see a piece of history lost.
"All my life, I grew up here. It's always been in the background. It means a lot to us. The building meant a lot to us, so it's very, very sad to see the destruction," Millspaugh said.

[READ MORE: UPDATE: Nobody hurt in major fire at Bisbee City Hall]

The building is considered structurally unsound, so investigators from the Cochise County Sheriff's Office have not been inside yet. Instead, the department used a drone to get a birds eye view of the damage.

"So the drone makes it safer for everybody and it can fly up above it to shoot video and we can look at that later," said Chief Echave.

Mayor Smith said the city is working to relocate their offices to the Bisbee Middle School at 519 Melody Lane.

Tucson News Now asked if taxpayers would be footing the bill for repairs, but Smith said it's too soon to tell and they will be reviewing their insurance policy.

The exact cause of the fire is under investigation.

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