TORRINGTON – Roy’s Cold Storage, a Torrington landmark, was destroyed Saturday when a fire ignited in an inaccessible attic space and spread throughout the building, leaving a pile of charred timber and ash in its wake.
Torrington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lance Petsch said the brigade was dispatched at 6:50 a.m. and flames were already shooting from the roof of the building when the first trucks arrived just a few minutes later.
“There was fire coming from the roof when we first got there,” Petsch said. “When the fire is going through the roof, you know it’s been going for a while. You know you’ve got a working structure fire and that makes it all the more difficult.”
The TVFD, Torrington Police Department, Yoder Volunteer Fire Department, Lingle Volunteer Fire Department, Morrill, Neb., Volunteer Fire Department, Veteran Volunteer Fire Department, Camp Guernsey Fire Department and the Scottsbluff, Neb., Fire Department all responded to the scene. The department also received assistance from the Torrington Electric Department and the Torrington Water Department.
Not long after arriving on scene, Petsch said past chief Dennis Estes called the Scottsbluff Fire Department to request their ladder truck. According to Petsch, Saturday marks the first time the TVFD has needed to use a ladder truck in 38 years.
“He (Estes) understood the complexity and the modifications to the building,” Petsch said. “He knew pretty quickly it was going to be one of those complex situations. He asked me pretty quick if I was going to be OK with him calling Scottsbluff.”
The ladder truck, he said, makes the situation a lot safer for firefighters. It eliminates some of the need for them to go on the roof of burning buildings and helps them get water in places they might not be able to otherwise.
Petsch said all of the assistance provided by the other fire departments was necessary in the firefighting effort.
“I think just the complexity of the call and some of the issues that we had trying to get to different areas, we just knew it was going to be a long ordeal,” he said. “We wanted to get the extra manpower.
“The difficulty and the physical toll it takes on people using those air packs and running the tools and whatnot, it’s a pretty hard toll. You have to be careful with that. You don’t want to have problems with somebody.”
Roy’s Cold Storage – and everything inside- is a total loss. The TVFD used heavy machinery to knock down much of what was left of the building when the blaze was extinguished.
“Some of it was safety and we still had smoke showing from there,” Petsch said. “Without knocking some of it down, we couldn’t actually get to where the fire was. They had a drop ceiling and there was some metal in there, so you had those different layers. Without tearing some of it down, you couldn’t actually get into those layers to spray water and put the fire out.”
Jackie Rife Rush, the owner of Roy’s Cold Storage, said through social media that she will be contacting customers who were storing meat in the facility.
“I’m devastated and when I can think a little clearer I will contact the people who have beef and hogs hanging,” she said. “All should be covered by insurance. For the people with lockers and meat in the freezer, I’m very sorry but none of that could be insured.”
Case Custom Meats, a Yoder business the sells farm-raised beef, pork and lamb, posted on social media that it had lost around 4,500 pounds of meat stored at Roy’s.
“We extended our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to Jackie and Stan Rush, and all of Jackie’s employees in the difficult days and months to come,” the post said.
Gracie’s Promise, a charity organization that helps with the financial needs of the families of children facing serious illnesses, was storing more than 400 cakes in the building at the time of the fire, according to a post by Helen Doherty on the group’s Facebook page. The cakes were to be used as a fundraiser for the organization.
“It has been one of the three big events that Gracie’s Promise does annually to stay active helping families,” the post said. “It is with a sad heart for all of us here at Gracie’s Promise to share that the storage locker that housed our cakes for the past several years as well as this year has burned down.
“Unfortunately over 400 of our cakes were there in their cold storage today as well. The good thing is we will prevail. There is a group in Rawlins already planning a different fundraiser to help defray the cost of the cake ingredients. There is also a group in Torrington that has stepped up and volunteered to help raise money.”
In addition, Goshen County School District No. 1 teachers have organized a fundraiser to help Gracie’s Promise recover from the loss of the cakes. Each teacher in the district has the choice to pay $5 to wear jeans to school on Thursday.
The cause of the fire is unknown as of press time. The Wyoming State Fire Marshall was on-scene to investigate the cause, but Petsch said there might not be enough evidence left to find the exact reason for the blaze.
“He may be able to say he could find where it was, or he may say it’s unknown,” Petsch said.
Most of the damage was contained to Roy’s Cold Storage, Petsch said. The adjoining building may have received some water damage, but should be structurally sound.
“I think we did a pretty good job of holding it to Roy’s,” Petsch said. “I think there might be a little water damage, but I don’t think there is much damage to that building next door. I don’t know if there was any smoke in there. I don’t think that’s going to be a loss at all.
“We worked really hard to make sure we didn’t lose a whole block.”