Fire destroyed the roof of the rebuilt Ranch House BBQ restaurant Sunday, nearly a year after a mudslide closed the decades-old Thurston County restaurant, and three weeks before it was to reopen.
Nobody was in the building when it caught fire and there were no injuries.
As the remains smoldered, restaurant co-owner Amy Anderson vowed to rebuild — again.
"I'm devastated," Anderson said. "If it wasn't for bad luck, I guess I wouldn't have any luck at all."
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The fire was reported at 11:15 a.m., said Davie Kendall, a spokeswoman for the McLane Fire Department. Firefighters responded to the scene at 10841 Kennedy Creek Road, just off state Route 8, at 11:23. They had the fire under control by 12:55 p.m. They came from several departments — McLane/Black Lake, Griffin and Rochester/Littlerock.
Firefighters suspect the fire was caused by a hot, tar-like roofing material that a contractor spread on the roof two hours before the structure caught fire. The substance may have caught insulation on fire, Kendall said.
Anderson said the roof just went on Saturday, and plans were to start decorating the interior today.
Kendall said there was no electricity or gas hooked up to the building. Arson also has been ruled out.
It appears the structure isn't a total loss. Kendall said her understanding is the roof will have to be replaced, but the walls can be salvaged.
Anderson resolved that she'll rebuild and reopen the restaurant next month. Co-owner Melanie Tapia said their contractor, Bowers Construction, has committed to work seven days a week to get the restaurant open.
And the owners have a financial incentive — they have been making mortgage payments on the property since a mudslide took it out last December, not to mention the cost of rebuilding.
The restaurant has operated since January in a temporary location — the Governor Hotel in downtown Olympia. Sales have been lackluster at the downtown location, which is about 15 miles from the original, rural Ranch House. "We just don't have enough people coming downtown to support us," Anderson said.
Just an hour before the fire, Tapia said employees were told the downtown location would close at the end of the month and they would be temporarily laid off until the new restaurant opened.
That's still the plan.
"I feel confident," Anderson said. "I'm hoping that we can."
Anderson and Tapia took over the restaurant in 2004, but it dates to the 1950s, and used to be called the Ranch Kitchen, Tapia said. She said this is the third fire in the history of the building.
The owners want to return to the rustic setting, so they're rebuilding the restaurant to look like it used to, down to the red-checkered curtains, Tapia said.
"I've worked my whole life to have a barbecue joint," Anderson said. "I enjoy cooking food for people."
Matt Batcheldor covers the city of Olympia for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-704-6869 or firstname.lastname@example.org.