Landmark building destroyed

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Forty firefighters worked Friday night to contain a fire that destroyed the Sands Dorsey Building in downtown Tucumcari.

At times flames leaped from the building’s roof and windows and smoke poured out making nearby streets invisible.

Bursts of flames could still be seen from the structure at 10:30 p.m. Firefighters said they planned to watch the building throughout the night.

At times, it seemed that the adjoining building would be also be engulfed. Firefighters and fire equipment were pulled back several times as the danger from the inferno became too great.

“There may be some water and smoke damage” to the building next door, but at 10 p.m. on Friday night, Fire Chief Mike Cherry said he believed the fire had not spread to the adjoining building, home of Pajarito Interiors.

The force of the spray from water cannons used in fighting the fire knocked brick from the nearly century-old structure several times.

There were no injuries to occupants of the two-story building or to firefighters, Cherry said.

The fire started about 5 p.m., said witnesses.

Work was being done on the roof, said the building’s owner Bob Hengstenberg.

A fire started while working on the roof and Hengstenberg said he tried to put it out with extinguishers and water he had with him.
“I even knocked out part of a wall,” he said.

He had called down to gallery owner Doug Quarles, who with his wife, Sharon, recently opened the Gallery 111 on a ground level space.
Doug Quarles went upstairs in response to Hengstenberg’s call.

At few minutes later, “Doug said, ‘It’s time to go,’ and I came downstairs, Hengstenberg said.

Hengstenberg, who said he had no insurance, said he had put his life savings into the building.

“It was almost finished,” he said. “You try to do good, and I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Cherry said it was too early to estimate the cost of damages.

“We’ll have to see it in the daylight,”  he said.

Firefighters from Bard-Endee, Quay districts 1 and 2 and the Logan Fire Department responded to the fire, as well as the Tucumcari Fire Department, said Cherry.

The state fire marshal will also be asked to investigate, Cherry said.

Owners of Pajarito Interiors, Ruth Nelson and Don Schutte, walked around the burning building several times to check if the flames were contained to only the Sands Dorsey Building.

Late last night, Nelson said, “We’ll have to see in the morning.”

Originally known as the Federal Building, the building became commonly known as the Sands Dorsey Building because the Sands Dorsey Drug occupied much of the building’s ground level for many years.

“We had our store there,” said Richard Taylor, owner of Rix Security, who came downtown to watch the blaze. Rix Security opened its offices there in 1974 and later moved to South First

“It had lawyers offices upstairs,” said Taylor’s wife, Susan Taylor.

Tommy Bauler and his wife, Lola, also came downtown.

“I lost a building 18 years ago,” said Bauler. “It burned for nine hours.”

Bauler’s Hallmark store was at the corner of First and Main streets.

Seeing Friday’s blaze, Tommy Bauler said, “Made me cry.”

With the smoke visible across the city, dozens of people came throughout the night to see the blaze.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Bauler said. “We don’t need to lose a landmark.”

“The area will be blocked off through tomorrow (today),” according to a press release from the Tucumcari Police Department.

“The cause of the fire is still under investigation,” the release said.