R.I.P., B.I.T.
by Karen James
Feb 10, 2010 | 5865 views | 22 22 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Photo by Jesse Hope
Fire Razes Iconic Business: Baked in Telluride TELLURIDE – The day after the Telluride Fire Protection District received a call alerting it to smoke in one of downtown Telluride’s longest-running businesses, officials remained uncertain of the cause of the blaze that gutted Baked In Telluride.

The fire burned late Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning, while firefighters remained on the razed-to-the-ground site Wednesday afternoon, dousing hot spots with water.

“It’s too early to even speculate,” said TFPD Fire Marshal Jim Boeckel from the scene on Wednesday morning. There the charred remains of the wood and red, corrugated metal-clad eatery billowed clouds of grey smoke and white steam into the cold morning air.

Boeckel said an investigation into the cause of the general-alarm fire that drew more than 40 volunteer firefighters working two ladder trucks and four engines from the district’s four stations in Telluride, Mountain Village, Placerville and San Bernardo, would not begin until personnel could safely get inside to begin digging through the remains.

“…[W]hich isn’t going to happen today,” he said. “It’s too hot, too unsafe.

“Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to start going through,” he continued.

Baked in Telluride, Telluride’s oldest restaurant, first opened its doors in 1976. In the 34 years since then the bakery has served countless affordable meals to locals and visitors alike. One of the town’s largest employers, it has also supplied a variety of bagels and breads from challah to sprouted wheat to retail outlets in the region.

“I just wrote 25 paychecks, including my own,” said owner Jerry Greene, acknowledging the sizeable employment gap the fire has left behind.

“I’m most concerned about my employees who are suddenly out of work.”

The TFPD received a call around 10:10 p.m. Tuesday from BIT employees who were cleaning the restaurant after it had closed. They reported smoke entering the back bakery area through the floor above a crawl space, Boeckel said.

The first person on the scene was an officer from the Telluride Marshal’s Department who made sure the three employees, who had already evacuated, were safe and accounted for, said Boeckel.

“When we got here it was pretty much full of smoke throughout,” he added.

“Our biggest problem was there was nowhere to access that crawl space,” he continued, noting that firefighters made three attempts to cut holes through the floor to reach the fire.

“By the second attempt, we had to evacuate the bakery area, because the floors were already getting spongy,” he said.

Firefighters made a third attempt to break through to the crawl space by entering the building through the front door, but by then there was just too much smoke.

“Our chainsaw wouldn’t run because it couldn’t get enough oxygen just because of all the smoke that was in there,” Boeckel said.

The fire was particularly elusive, in part, speculated Telluride Fire Station Chief Jamey Schuler, because the building may have once served as a livery where the floor had to be reinforced in order to support the weight of the horses.

“It was a nightmare as far as the floor system,” he said.

“We all knew it was going on, but we could never find the flames,” he continued.

“We’d cut holes in the floor and think as soon as we cut a hole in the floor that we’d be able to stick our head in there and see there’s where the seed of the fire is, add a little bit of water and take the temperature away and we’d alleviate the problem,” he explained.

“That never happened; we never found the flames.”

Despite flowing water under the building, the billows of smoke just kept growing larger and larger.

While every once in awhile the responders would see flames pop out of the side of the building on the Village market side below snow level, “Not until the roof finally went up in flames did we really know where the fire was at,” Schuler said.

After spending an hour or so trying to get through the floor, commanders made a tactical decision to pull everyone out and switched to a defensive strategy in order to protect the surrounding structures.

“It got to the point where we were not going to risk people going into the building,” said Schuler, adding that the volume of swirling, turbulent smoke had grown so large, and the off-gassing so great, that at a certain point it could ignite.

“There was probably a mushroom cloud above Telluride, you just couldn’t see it in the dark,” he said.

In the meantime, the firefighters let the fire burn through the floor of the bakery, “…[A]nd then we had something we could physically work with,” Boeckel said, estimating that the floor finally collapsed around 1:30 or 2 a.m.

The snow and icicles that glittered from the roof of the Village Market some four feet from the smoldering bakery and those that hanging from building roofline across the alley were a testament to the wisdom of the strategy.

“The only building that got damaged was the building that was on fire when we got here,” said Boeckel, praising the firefighters' work.

“When the fire in the building of origin finally broke through the roof, we had enough control means in place to protect the exposures that they did not take enough heat to melt the icicles off on the other side of the alley,” he continued.

One of those means of control, said Schuler, was a ladder truck that sprayed a steady stream of water on the roof to keep it cold.

As for the bakery, “The attic space, the entire roof’s gone at this point,” said Boeckel, who described the back wall of the building as having collapsed outwards while everything else collapsed inwards.

“This front façade, the porch roof, is very unstable at this point. That’s why we’re not really allowing anybody to go up there, even our own personnel; if they do, there’s two, one to do what needs to be done and the other one to keep a look overhead just for safety,” he said.

“It’s a total loss.”

The last major fire in Telluride’s commercial district was a spectacular blaze that destroyed the historic Telluride Pharmacy building in the fall of 1990. The building was subsequently rebuilt on the corner of Colorado Ave. and Fir St.; its ground floor is currently vacant.

Unlike that fire, which came critically close to draining the town’s entire water storage supply of two million gallons, Schuler said that the Baked In Telluride fire did not pose the same risk.

“We never got close to running out” of water, he said.

Greene, who spent much of the night at the scene, said on Wednesday afternoon that he is trying to recover as much of his data as possible in order to get his business running again.

“I’m encouraged that we’ll be able to move forward fairly quickly,” he said.

POSTED 2/10 1:30 a.m.

A Telluride Icon Is Destroyed in a Fire That Started Late Tuesday Night.

by Carlos Cagin

Smoke began pouring from the metal frame of Baked In Telluride Tuesday night.

Early reports are that the fire began on the floor of the iconic bakery on 127 South Fir, though the cause is still undetermined.

Baked in Telluride, which opened its doors in 1976, was the oldest restaurant and among the oldest businesses in Telluride.

As of 1:45 Wednesday morning, firefighters were still working to control the fire, and had set up a perimeter around the entire block.

The Watch will continue to post updates as more information becomes available.

Photos by Jesse Hope

Videos by Carlos Cagin
Comments-icon Post a Comment
D Eschman
February 11, 2010
Jerry, I was so saddened to hear of the fire. Your place has truly been a bedrock institution in a town that's changed much too much in recent years. You've maintained its local focus by keeping things simple, good and affordablefor everyone. I wish you well with rebuilding and I hope you have many more years of prosperity and are able to continue to offer great product at a reasonable price for T-ride residents.
February 11, 2010
When it comes to our property, what do we expect in case of loss (hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood, fire, etc.)? The disaster itself is news. What happens after the dust settles is the story...most people are unprepared for the shock of the aftermath, and it's no wonder.

Insurance policyholders, and more importantly disaster survivors, need to be informed of access to equality--basic rights and information. The internet reaches far more people than anyone would have ever imagined, though difficult to gather those willing to pause, to inspect, to further...to think on their own. And yet, much is available gratis! It just takes looking: www.disasterprepared.net/info.html

Alex, Las Vegas
February 11, 2010
I remember working at Sofios and walking to BIT to get loaves of hot warm french bread, my first taste of Baklava fresh out of the oven, and my daily chocolate croissant for the drive home after work. Please rebuild soon.
David Hutson
February 11, 2010
Jerry Greene..... you have been an inspiration and a huge blessing to this Telluride Community for so many years. May your endless Karma be returned to you ten-fold.

J.R. Murray
February 11, 2010
From Flagstaff, AZ

Hundreds of skiers from Flagstaff stop at B.I.T and consider Jerry a dear friend. We are saddened by the loss and wish Jerry and his staff the best.
February 11, 2010
Three historic buildings lost in Durango... fire started in food service business.

Galloping Goose fire... food service.

Papa Murphy's fire, total loss... food service

Now BIT.

If you live or work next to any restaurant, be concerned.

Maybe someone will get a clue?

Good job firefighters, for saving the adjoining buildings.
February 10, 2010
The BTI fire saddens me for many reasons. First, that it happened in the firsts place(one of my favorite places for a snack), second that a fire will devastate yet another Telluride business in the future. History proves that. And third, that technology exists that could have stopped the BIT fire from being the total loss that is was. I urge "the powers that be" and T-Ride citizens to research DSPAfire.com. A $1000.00 fire knockdown device could have been used on this "hidden fire" to seek out and suppress the suspected grease fire and saved the "oldest Telluride business" and saved one of the towns largest employers. 25 pay checks vs $1K!? In full disclosure,I am an EX Fire Chief, veteran of FDNY and the Kennedy Space Center FL. I sell the DSPA line of products in N. and S. America.
Eric Doud
February 10, 2010
I remember when the first commercial loaf of Jewish Rye was delivered to Fago's Ice House hand baked and carried by Jerry himself. Give us our daily bread is the foundation to the community. That wholesome foundation is not a given as we now know. Let us all help give back to what has been lost. Thank you Jerry from that very first loaf.
Taime Down
February 10, 2010
Respekt to BIT. Blown away by this news, Ate there on Tues afternoon for lunch before leaving on a plane. My favorite place to eat and hang out at when in Tell'. My condolences to the staff at Baked and the town of Telluride for this loss. Godspeed to BIT in it's efforts to hopefully rebuild.
Dyno Wahl
February 10, 2010
Such sad news :( I miss those potato knishes. As a former resident who returns to T-ride periodically to find many changes, it was always comforting to see BIT still there exactly as it always has been. My thoughts are with you Jerry -- I hope you rebuild quickly and move forward.
Jim Pettegrew
February 10, 2010

My heartfelt condolences go out to Jerry, all his employees, and to the Zoline family, for the loss of BIT Tuesday night.

The bakery will turn 34 this year, still run daily & cared for by its founder, which makes it an institution in a town whose current incarnation is barely older than that.

Just try to compute the number of times you walked through that front door, in pursuit of your morning fix, an afternoon sweet, or a loaf of sprouted wheatberry.

Jerry, between The Bakery and KOTO, you've helped create the community that sustains us all ... now we're here for you.

February 10, 2010
This is a sad day for the Telluride Community to have lost such an asset - not only in the form of affordable (and delicious) f&b but in the friendly service and hard working people that made the place what it was. I hope that as a community we can do our best to be sure that these people are able to continue working and living in Telluride.

I feel Mr. Greene is to be admired for his years of helping to share the beauty and kindness of Telluride with a group of very dedicated and kind people - often from other countries; who after years of hard work in our community are indeed 'locals'

Betty and Al
February 10, 2010
We know Jerry loved BIT as many locals and tourists did. This is a sad day for the Telluride community. The firefighters are amazing selfless volunteers who did an outstanding job containing the fire. Thank you.

Kate Wadley
February 10, 2010
Jerry, So sorry for your loss! I love all your treats! Many around the country are very sad and wish you well. Great job to the firefighters for keeping it contained, it was a LONG night( for a firemans wife, too) Special thanks to Brown Dog for Pizza and coffee in the early hours of the morning! True community support, Thank God no one was hurt!
Betz Family
February 10, 2010
We have always loved BIT and hope it is rebuilt. BIT has an amazing presence in Telluride and will be sorely missed. My little boy was crying this morning asking where we were going to eat now.
tea party
February 10, 2010
Yesterday was National Bagel Day, I kept saying lets go get a bagel- I wish I had. I'll miss the best bagel in the west. I hope you'll be back in business soon.
Seth Cagin
February 10, 2010
A couple of journalistic principles that even bloggers COULD choose to follow. (1) Resist the impulse to speculate about the cause of this fire until facts are known. (2) References to other businesses that really have nothing at all to do with this story are unfair.
February 10, 2010
Jerry, So sorry about BIT, hope you can rebuid another restaurant just as amazing as this one.
Brian Ahern
February 10, 2010
Jerry so sorry for your loss, I hope you rebuild for the community sake and the sake of all your employees and their families. P.S. Carlos great footage
February 10, 2010
FYI- the Cornerhouse Grille has it's hood cleaned twice a year and we give our used grease to Telski which uses it in a furnace.