Fire destroys historic State Bridge Lodge |

Fire destroys historic State Bridge Lodge

Scott N. MillerVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
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STATE BRIDGE – The main building at State Bridge River Resort in Bond, Colo. was destroyed by a fire early Saturday morning. There were no injuries, thanks in part, to a persistent dog.”Something woke me up. I looked at the clock, and it said 4:28,” said onsite manager John Ryder, who lived in the 117-year-old lodge building. “I tried to go back to sleep, but my dog wouldn’t let me. When I finally opened my eyes, they started burning.”Ryder went outside and saw that the bar and deck were on fire.”I tried to go back in, but the smoke and fire were already too much,” Ryder said. Ryder escaped with his dog, Tatiana, and the clothes on his back.With the power and phone lines out, and no cell phone service, Ryder drove four miles to Rancho del Rio to call for help.While he got out of the building, as did a couple staying at one of the cabins, Ryder lost everything he owned.

“I went to Silverthorne the other day and spent $300 on clothes,” he said. “I didn’t wear any of it.”Ryder was able to laugh off most of what he lost. But he had some personal items that are hard to lose.”I had pictures and things my dead father gave me in there,” Ryder said. “That’s why I tried to go back in. But I just couldn’t.”Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Ross was one of the first on the scene, at about 5:30 a.m. The lodge building was already burned almost to the ground.”I could feel the heat from the intersection,” Ross said. That intersection is more than 100 yards from the old lodge building.While the old wooden building burned quickly, the fire lingered through the morning and into the afternoon. Ross told the people he prevented from going down to the lodge building that there were propane tanks still on fire.While some of the cabins and yurts may have been damaged by smoke, only the lodge, its attached house and one outbuilding were destroyed. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.’I met my wife here’

State Bridge is so named because it was the first public bridge across the Colorado River in Colorado. Since 1890, the spot has been a popular gathering place.”There are Native American tracings all over the place,” general manager and co-owner Scott Stoughton said. “Then the pioneers came, and then the railroad. All those people got together here.”State Bridge continued to be a gathering place over the decades.”We’ve had hippies, yuppies, rafters, cowboys, hardcore bikers, all here dancing and having a good time,” Stoughton said. “I think I’ve seen one fight here.”The lure of State Bridge as a gathering place drew Chris Musnaw from Leadville to see what had happened.”I’ve played here for the last 10 years,” Musnaw said. “I got a call this morning, and I wanted to see it. I met my wife here. This is a place where a lot of people have met a lot of their friends.”

Hitting hardThe loss of the lodge building was a blow to many of those gathered near the river Saturday morning.”It’s heart-wrenching. I feel like a want to throw up,” said Natalie Botkin. “I feel bad for the boys in Vail whose only jobs were up here.”Botkin lives year-round at Rancho del Rio these days but spent several summers as a bartender at State Bridge.”That was fun,” she said. “People got along, and I could see the shows from where I was working.”One of the hardest-hit by the fire was Stoughton, who since 1997 has performed at, worked at and run State Bridge.”I’ve been hired by all the owners since then to take this place to the next level,” Stoughton said. “This was the year it was going to happen.”Looking ahead

“We’d just had our best opening weekend ever,” Stoughton said. “We had great acts booked. This was going to be the year. I guess the ghosts didn’t want that.”While the lodge building is gone, Stoughton said State Bridge shows will continue if possible. A show tonight with Banyan and Stephen Perkins has been moved to Samana Lounge in Vail, which Stoughton also runs.For future shows, Stoughton said he’d like to keep bringing bands to State Bridge.”If we have to get a big tent, we will,” Stoughton said. But, he added, he’s going to need some help. That help started with fire and police crews, he said, and a Salvation Army representative came up soon after to see what people might need. But the real help will be needed for rebuilding.”I’ve got a lot of favors out there,” he said. “I’m going to have to call them all in for this.”Stoughton encouraged friends to check in often at for more information about the concert season and other information.

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