COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Luis Gonzalez was caught off guard by what he found when he arrived at work Friday morning. The chef and manager or the Sweet Elephant at Vino Colorado Winery usually arrives about an hour before their 9:00 a.m. opening.
"I saw a bunch of people gathered around outside, it seemed a little awkward and then I came to open, unlock everything situated and they told me you can't enter the building," he said.
There had been a fire hours earlier in the 130-year-old Templeton Building in Old Colorado City where his business is located. Firefighters think an electrical issue started the fire at around 2:00 a.m. It quickly spread to an office on the second floor.
Luis surveyed the smoke and water damage in his kitchen.
"Debris, everything kind of fell into our kitchen area, our hallway area, there's water damage everywhere from the firefighters you know doing their job trying to get the fire out," he said.
The first firefighters arrived on the scene within 4 minutes. A full complement of two fire engines and one truck was at the Tempelton Building within 11 minutes.
"We want to be aggressive because we want these businesses to stay in business," said Captain Mike Smaldino, Public Information Officer for the Colorado Springs Fire Department. "We don't want these businesses to get affected by fire."
That fast response kept the fire from causing even more damage. Many buildings in the Old Colorado City historic district were erected before modern fire codes were established. They share walls creating a risk that fire could spread from building to building.
Smaldino said a similar fire in this neighborhood from back in 2002 damaged buildings for an entire city block.
"With the shared walls, in a lot of cases that heavy timber goes, it's set between those walls," he said. "So, if one end of it's burning and it burns through, it's into the other side."
Smaldino said the firefighters from Station 5 will regularly visit businesses here to familiarize themselves with the layout. They want to be able to respond safely and effectively in the event of an emergency.
But for Luis, the fire is another setback in a difficult year for bars and restaurants. It was just a few months ago when all COVID-related restrictions were lifted on these businesses.
"We'd started seeing a little more normality in here and stuff like that, started feeling good and then something like this happens," he said.
A neighboring business has offered to help him to hold some parties that were booked for this week. Until the restoration work is finished, Luis hopes that customers can pick up an extra bottle of wine from the Vino Colorado Winery which is on Ore Mill Road near Rudy's barbeque.
"Bear with us, and any help helps," he said.