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Investigation continues, recovery begins after Alpine fire destroys multiple businesses

Mitch Borden
Marfa Public Radio
The aftermath of a building fire pictured a day after it broke out in Alpine, Texas on Sunday, May 26, 2024.

An investigation continues and recovery efforts are getting underway in Alpine after a devastating downtown fire destroyed a historic building and multiple local businesses.

Officials said Tuesday they still had not determined what caused the fire, or where exactly it started within the building that housed five businesses on West Holland Avenue in a central part of town popular with locals and tourists alike.

“It appears it started up in the roof, between the ceiling and the roof,” Brewster County Judge Greg Henington, the top local elected official, said at a county meeting Tuesday. “It was a shed-type roof, the fire got up in there and it took off.”

Henington said the building, around 100 years old, had no extensive barriers between each business.

“So that fire just ran across basically what you would call the attic,” he said.

Andrew Pierce, Alpine’s fire chief, said a fire marshal investigation is ongoing and that officials could know more about the cause as early as Thursday.

Officials on Tuesday also sought to dispel rumors that fire hydrants in the area were not working at the time of the fire.

“That was not true,” Alpine Mayor Catherine Eaves said in an interview. “The emergency services coordinator and the fire department said that everything worked perfectly.”

Henington also spoke to that issue at Tuesday’s county meeting, saying firefighters had “plenty of water” and that water pressure at the scene was “fine.”

“The challenge on a big fire like that is all about water, it’s about how much water you can put in it, how quickly you can get it,” he said. “But all the engines worked, all the equipment worked.”

The Alpine Police Department said Monday that “flare ups” at the fire scene could continue “for several days” but that “the possibility of the fire spreading is very minimal.”

Multiple fundraising efforts have been launched to help the businesses that suffered what the county judge described as a “complete loss” from the fire. The businesses include Eva’s Salon, Judy’s Bread & Breakfast, Vintage Antiques & Snazzy Things, La Azteca and Gallery on the Square.

The Alpine Historical Association, a local nonprofit organization, is among those that have launched a recovery fundraiser.

In a Facebook post, the group said the money raised will be used “to assist the affected businesses in relocating and reestablishing operations quickly in nearby facilities” and that the “funds will be directed to those businesses that secure new locations, ensuring they can resume serving our community without undue delay.”

Eaves said she has been speaking with people impacted by the fire, including a salon owner who lost “everything, all the way up to the scissors that she uses to cut hair” and an artist who lost 20 pieces of artwork in the gallery that burned.

“The ones I’ve spoken with, they do want to reopen,” she said. “There’s a lot of sadness in Alpine, as can be expected,” she said. “Not just [about] the history that’s been lost, but the livelihoods that have been impacted.”

Visit Alpine, Texas - the city’s online visitor information resource - praised the actions of first responders in a Facebook post Monday and said “all of Alpine is mourning” the loss.

“There is energy in the community, an overflowing desire to take action and help those whose livelihoods have been snatched away,” the entity wrote. “This is a moment to assess, to make good plans, and then all pull together to care for our Alpine family and ensure that this shocking event brings us closer and the whole community emerges better and stronger.”

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.