Brooks Lake Lodge General Manager Adam Long woke up about 1:30 a.m. Sunday with a weird feeling that something was wrong.
“I walked out on my porch of my cabin and saw a small flame on the roof,” Long said.
He ran to a mop closet, grabbed a ladder and two fire extinguishers, and climbed on to the roof to battle the flames and smoke billowing from the 98-year-old Togwotee Pass lodge.
“When I put the fire out, it was crackling under my feet,” he said. “You could hear it burning under where I was standing, so I figured it’s well beyond my skill set.”
That’s when Long ran to the lodge’s office and called 911. At 2:32 a.m. the Dubois Fire Department received the call and responded, sending eight engines, a water tender and an air unit, according to Dubois Fire Chief Mike Franchini. They arrived on the scene about a half hour later.
“Firefighters attacked the fire from the interior and cut vent holes on the roof,” Franchini said. “The historic building was saved.”
The close call was emotional for Long, who met his wife and is raising his daughter at Brooks Lake Lodge. He tried to stay calm while evacuating guests to a safe location on the property, even as thoughts swirled in his head of losing a place he loves.
“I live, eat, sleep, breathe Brooks Lake and have for 16 years,” Long said. “You want a historic place like this to survive.”
The Dubois Fire Department and the Fremont County Fire Department extinguished the blaze over the course of several hours. No employees or guests were injured, and damage was limited to the ceiling and roof of the “tea room” and part of the dining room.
Long said he doesn’t often call Jeff Golightly, chief advisor to Brooks Lake Lodge owner Max Chapman. But “this was a big deal,” he said. Around 3 or 4 a.m., as firefighters attacked the roof, Long phoned Golightly.
“This is not what we need to happen for us now,” Long told him.
It’s the second early morning phone call about a fire Golightly has received this month. On July 2 a middle-of-the-night fire shut down Cafe Genevieve in downtown Jackson, another historic property owned by Chapman, with other investors.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Golightly said.
The Brooks Lake Lodge blaze also followed a July 12 fire that destroyed the White Pine Ski Resort lodge in Pinedale (which has no connection to Chapman, Golightly said).
The Wyoming State Fire Marshal’s office continues to investigate all three fires in the area. State Fire Marshal Michael Reed said he expects reports on the Brooks Lake and White Pine fires soon, but the Cafe Genevieve fire report may take longer because evidence is still being processed in a lab.
While the number of fires is unusual, Reed said “sometimes risk levels are higher.”
“When you look at the locations of some of these fires, the lodges were out in areas where fireplaces are used all year round, and we have very rustic construction,” Reed said.
State Fire Investigator Eric Siwik said there was “definitely no connection between the three.”
“Accidents happen,” he said. “It just happens to be on this side of the state right now. There’s no connection right now between the three fires.”
Siwik also said the Brooks Lake blaze looked accidental.
“I can tell you right now we’re not looking at anything suspicious,” Siwik said. “It looks to be accidental in nature. The exact cause, I’m still following up on.”
Brooks Lake Lodge remains open and is still hosting guests. Long said his next steps are working with a contractor to repair the charred timber and flooding at the lodge and working with the insurance company.
“Right now we’re trying to keep it to, hopefully, a productive timeline so we can get a roof back on prior to snow season,” Long said. “Because all the other fixing and repairing can happen as long as you have a roof over your head.”
Golightly said he’s grateful Long spotted the fire in the middle of the night, and for the firefighters’ fast response.
“None of our cabins were damaged, none of our lodge rooms were damaged, the lobby, the bar wasn’t damaged,” Golightly said. “We were very fortunate. No guests and no employees got hurt — that’s what’s important to us.”
Built in 1922 and originally named the Two-Gwo-Tee Inn, Brooks Lake Lodge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.