Fire investigation expected to last months

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

The building at First Ave. and Bridge St. in mid-February after it had caught fire hours earlier. Photo by Ben Olson.

Investigations continue into the fire that destroyed two historic downtown buildings and damaged another.

According to Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton, fire marshals are focusing their efforts on the 202 North First Ave. building at the corner of Bridge Street and First, which they identify as the source of the fire. The building was completely destroyed by the fire, along with another structure at 204/6 First Ave. The 208 North First Building, home to Grace Sandpoint Church, also sustained heavy smoke and water damage, prompting the congregation to meet at a temporary location until repairs are complete.

It will take some time before locals receive definitive answers as to the cause of the fire. According to city officials, weather conditions have put the investigation on hold, and a final report will likely take 45 to 60 days to complete.

Despite the wide array of rumors circulating on social media, Stapleton told a crowd at a downtown revitalization meeting Tuesday that there was no reason for rampant speculation.

“They believe at this point it was started in the basement of the building, and there’s no reason to suspect at this point that there was any foul play,” Stapleton said.

Stapleton cautioned that it could take months, perhaps one or two years, for the fire situation to be fully resolved. It’s a complicated situation involving multiple insurance companies, and at least one business owner was uninsured. Restoring conventional traffic patterns will also be a challenge due to damage to the buildings and city infrastructure.

“We believe, moving forward, that both buildings (completely destroyed by the fire) will need to be demolished, which creates complications with the right of way,” she said.

While the community waits for answers, members are rallying to support the business owners and employees who lost their livelihoods in the fire.

A special event, dubbed The Power of Community, is organized for this weekend to assist the people affected by the fire. Hosted by the Lauren Adair Group, the event will take place at 317 North First Ave. from 4-7 p.m. Saturday. Local musicians will provide live music, while restaurants will have food and drink on hand for attendees to sample. There will also be a variety of fascinating, unique items on hand that event goers can bid on in auctions. You can support the event through GoFundMe — just visit

“It’ll be a great night for a great cause!” write the event organizers. “Come join us and see how the Power of Community will help us rise above the ashes.”

In addition, the fundraiser started by Eichardt’s to support the fire victims is still active. To date, it has raised $3,770 of a $10,000 goal. To contribute, visit

“Downtown small businesses are a vital part of preserving our community,” reads the fundraising campaign page. “We welcome anyone to join us and we challenge everyone to do something to help.”

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