Sunday fire destroys Centerville saloon

What appears to be an electrical fire destroyed Centerville's Valley Bar early Sunday morning.

The Carson Valley landmark caught fire at about 5 a.m., according to co-owner and neighbor Sybil Dunagan.

Dunagan, who grew up in the bar, said she heard a loud popping noise and saw the fire when she looked out of her window.

East Fork Fire District firefighters arrived on scene at about 5 a.m. to find the attic of the building ablaze.

The building's heavy construction complicated firefighters' efforts to extinguish the blaze.

East Fork Fire Marshal Steve Eisele said that when firefighters arrived, flames were venting out of an overhang on the east side of the building.

"They found the building filled with heavy smoke and searched the downstairs and upstairs to make sure there were no occupants," he said. "Then they went to work to try and get to the seat of the fire. The ceiling of the room on the east side, which was the billiards room, had two layers of 3/4-inch tongue and groove. That's nothing like trying to get through modern construction. They had to try and chain-saw their way through. About 25 minutes later, the fire vented through the roof and collapsed the ceiling."

Eisele said he believes the cause of the fire was electrical wiring, but there is little left of the attic to confirm it.

"The other thing we found were lot of bird nests, and squirrel's nests, which is to be expected for a building that was there for over 100 years."

The building itself was a total loss, but owners were there on Monday salvaging what they could.

"This is a significant piece of Carson Valley history," East Fork Fire and Paramedics District Chief Tod Carlini said. "We'll do everything we can to try and recover what's inside." Carlini said.

The structure has stood at 900 Centerville Lane at the intersection with Highway 88 for more than a century.

Dunagan said the bar was moved to its location from Virginia City by a team of oxen.

"It used to be a cheese factory," she said.

The bar was the focus of the tiny town of Centerville. A bar had been there since 1902.

Julian Larrouy Jr. said his father and mother purchased the bar in 1945 when it was called the Pride of the West.

"It was one of the mainstays of Centerville and was across the street from the blacksmith shop."

Larrouy was 11 and Dunagan was 2 years old when their parents moved into the bar.

"Weekends mom would have dinners and my sister and I would have to do a lot of dishwashing, drying and helping to serve."

The family built the house next door in 1947, according to the Assessor's Web Site. Larrouy said they leased the bar out for a couple of years in 1949, but his parents ended up returning to run the bar.

"I guess they realized it wasn't the happiest place to grow up," he said. "But, in retrospect, Sybil and I learned a lot of responsibility."

When the family moved back into the bar, they left Larrouy to live alone in the house. He graduated in 1952.

"A lot of history went up in smoke here," Larrouy said as he watched the fire on Sunday.

Bar operators Bryan Davis and Christopher Plummer watched as firefighters worked on the building. Davis said they had just put $10,000 worth of improvements inside the bar over the past three weeks.

"We'll just have to see what happens," Davis said. "Hopefully we can keep going."

Davis and Plummer took over the bar last summer.

"It was awesome to run the bar," Plummer said. "There are a lot of cool, great people who came here."

Davis and Plummer had plans to hold Centerville Days.


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