There was no water to put out resort’s fire |

There was no water to put out resort’s fire

With no water available, firefighters could do little to stop the electrical fire that destroyed a mountaintop restaurant at Northstar-at-Tahoe Ski Resort.

Attempts were made Friday to extinguish the fire with foams and chemicals. The water in a 3,000-gallon holding tank was automatically used by the grill’s sprinkler system.

“By the time fire personnel got to the scene the fire had consumed so much of the building it had to keep going,” said Erin Bernall, communications manager for the resort.

Northstar Fire Chief Bill Zahn said the sprinklers had little impact on the fire because of it’s location. The Summit Deck and Grill has no indoor seating. The building was 10,000 square feet, with 6,000 feet being deck space, Bernall said. The cooking space was also outdoors.

The blaze was spotted around 3:52 a.m. by a employee grooming the slopes. The damage to the 6-year-old structure is estimated at approximately $1.5 million. No one was injured in the fire.

If a similar situation should happen at Northstar’s sister resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Lake Valley Fire Chief John Ceko said the results would probably be the same. Sierra’s Grandview Bar and Grill is the only restaurant at the top of the mountain. Most of the seating is indoors, with a small outdoor deck area.

“They have the proper exits and large commercial-type fire extinguishers, so a detected fire would hopefully be contained,” Ceko said. “But if it happened at night, when no one was around, and it gets out of hand, there is nothing we can do. They have no water supply up there, and no way to get equipment up there. We would just have to let it burn.

“Our No. 1 concern is life safety. We are also concerned about property loss and we try to mitigate those losses, but in that situation there’s only so much we can do,” Ceko said.

Nancy Harrison, public relations manager at Sierra, said the resort works with both Lake Valley and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure fire prevention measures are in place.

“Our main focus is on prevention, to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” Harrison said.

Heavenly Ski Resort’s restaurant, Monument Peak, at the top of the tram, has a better chance of surviving a blaze, Ceko said.

“They have a water system at the top of the mountain. They put in a sprinkler system with external fittings so we can hook up hoses,” Ceko explained. “In the case of a fire, we should be able to save the tram, it’s building and the restaurant.”

Jimmy Lawrence, director of risk management at Heavenly, said the resort’s snowmaking system can be used for fire suppression.

“We have hydrant locations with water available all over the mountain,” Lawrence said. “You are never more than about 50 feet away from a hydrant at a building.”

Northstar’s fire didn’t slow business, and on Saturday the “Burnt Pine Cafe,” a temporary replacement is scheduled to open. The resort was also working this week to place temporary restrooms at the grill’s location.

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