Neighbors reflect on loss of Dam Bar in Helena

HELENA, Mont. - The popular Dam Bar on the north end of Canyon Ferry Lake in Helena is a total loss after a fire engulfed the restaurant late Saturday.

The fire started just before 4 p.m. and the flames quickly spread from the kitchen to the rest of the bar.

There are no injuries reported for both the firefighters and staff, but crews from several surrounding fire departments worked quickly to make sure the bar fire did not become a larger forest fire. Neighbors said they were thankful for a rapid response by neighboring fire departments, otherwise, things could have become dangerous for the community.

"I was worried that the sparks, embers, would get over and burn my house and everybody else,” Michelle Rodriguez, who lives next to the bar, said. “Fires already have wreaked such devastation that I was, it's like the last thing I want to do is lose my home and...So yeah, I was pretty scared."

Most neighbors and people passing by did not want to go on camera, but all of them had stories of how important the bar was to them, stopping by with their families after a day of floating or boating at Canyon Ferry Lake. Rodriguez says she feels confident that they will rebuild, and while the neighborhood is devastated right now, she expects the community to bounce back.

"I see this could be some healing maybe, and some...a new beginning, you know,” Rodriguez said. “It will get rebuilt and people will move on, and it will be okay. It's just right now, it's overwhelming."

It was the type of bar where neighbors talked about their weeks, and helped each other when down, she added. For now, they'll have to find a new watering hole as they build back the old one.

As for what's next, the fire departments who responded have knocked the collapse of the restaurant inward to avoid flames spreading to homes or trees in the community.

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