Officials: Fire began in kitchen

Investigators still determining cause of roadhouse flames

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A fire that heavily damaged the Riverbend Roadhouse on Tuesday likely started in the kitchen, caused by either an old compressor or the electrical wiring around it, officials said Friday.

After investigating the fire Wednesday and Thursday, Steamboat Springs Fire Marshall Jay Muhme said officials have identified where the blaze started and are narrowing down the exact source of the fire. The building just west of town on U.S. Highway 40 has been a restaurant, and at times an inn, for almost 50 years.

Muhme has worked with the insurance fire investigators during the past few days and said the compressor is being sent to a lab for further investigation. Muhme said the piece of kitchen equipment was old.

"We're not sure what it is, but we narrowed it down basically to the compressor and electrical wiring," Muhme said.

Arson is not suspected in the fire, which started in the early morning hours and displaced 10 tenants who lived above the restaurant.

"There was no malicious intent," Muhme said.

The fire destroyed the second floor of the building, which was used for long-term rental units, and the attic. The kitchen and a back storage room on the first floor were damaged heavily, and the dining area, bar and an attached three-bedroom rental unit had smoke and heat damage but were not completely burned.

On Tuesday, Paula Stephenson, who owns the property with her husband, Reed, said she was unsure whether the building was salvageable.

In the 1980s, the kitchen in the roadhouse burned but the then-owners, Larry and Marigene Matheis, were able to rebuild.

At about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, a tenant who lived above the restaurant smelled smoke. He started banging on doors and got the other nine tenants who lived in the five rental units out of the building.

The Red Cross gave the tenants three days worth of vouchers for motel rooms, food and clothing. All their belongings in the upper floor units were burned.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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