CHUBBUCK — As the owner of the 5 Mile Inn, Bar and Cafe raced toward his Yellowstone Avenue business early Saturday morning to the sight of billowing smoke, he thought to himself, “Please, please. Not again.”
Pocatello resident Doug Hagen has owned the 5 Mile bar since April 1, 2002 and plans to rebuild it.
The weekend blaze that destroyed his business marked the second time fire has upended his life. In 2012, Hagen lost his home and all of its contents to the most devastating blaze in Bannock County history, the Charlotte Fire.
“The first thing I thought about was if my cook was OK, and I arrived to see her standing with a few police officers before the fire trucks had even arrived,” Hagen said. “Then I started thinking that I really don’t want to have to go through this again after my house burnt down in the Charlotte Fire. That’s what was going through my head: ‘Here we go again.’”
Over a period spanning several hours, Hagen’s fear was calamitously realized as what was initially a small fire soon engulfed the entire building, leaving nothing but the concrete shell of the structure in its wake.
On Wednesday, Chubbuck Fire Department Chief Merlin Miller confirmed the blaze at the 5 Mile bar started inside the kitchen of the cafe that shared the same building as the bar. Though some have speculated that the blaze was the result of a grease fire, the cause remains undetermined at this point, Miller added.
When Hagen was able to speak to the cook who was inside the bar when the fire broke out, he didn’t glean much from the conversation because the employee was in a state of shock, he said.
“She could hardly even talk and was shaking like a leaf,” Hagen said about the conversation with his cook. “All she could say was she walked out of the walk-in cooler and the kitchen was on fire. That’s all she could muster.”
Hagen said that seconds after he showed up at the bar at 6:30 a.m. the first of four fire engine crews were arriving. He promptly provided firefighters access to the building through a back door.
Firefighters battled the fire from the rear entryway for approximately 20 minutes, appearing to have gained the upper hand on the blaze, Hagen said. But unbeknownst to Hagen and the firefighters, the blaze had apparently jumped into the building’s attic where it spread rapidly.
Miller told the Journal Tuesday that after attacking the fire strong for 20 minutes, the firefighter’s tactics switched to a more defensive approach as they worked to keep the blaze contained.
Somehow firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to any nearby structures, one of which was located about 20 feet from the flames and contained hundreds of bottles of highly flammable liquors and spirits. Eventually the roof of the 5 Mile bar collapsed, allowing firefighters to pummel the blaze from an aerial water cannon affixed atop a fire engine ladder.
Despite their efforts, the structure was a total loss.
Made-from-scratch, home-style cooking and a country western feel were staples of the 5 Mile, Hagen said. The fire not only put 12 people out of work, but it also took with it a rich piece of Chubbuck’s history, Hagen said.
The 5 Mile bar, or as some call it, “The 5,” was named after the distance from the bar to the old Union Pacific rail house on Harrison Avenue, Hagen said.
In fact, the 5 Mile bar predates both the cities of Chubbuck and Pocatello, according to former Bannock County Commissioner Evan Frasure, whose father served on one of the first Chubbuck City Councils in the late 1950s.
Frasure says that when the railroad punched through the Portneuf Gap to create the Gateway to the Northwest, hence Pocatello’s nickname as the Gate City, the 5 Mile, along with three other bars — The Green Triangle, Myrtle’s Place and the Redwood Gardens — were the primary watering holes for railway workers. The number of people that these four bars attracted heavily influenced the decision for Chubbuck to formulate,” Frasure said
“That’s why this fire is historic,” Frasure said. “The last bar still standing that helped create the city of Chubbuck has finally been destroyed.”
In addition to the building itself, the fire also consumed over $56,000 worth of music equipment and instruments that 5 Mile’s house band, Whiskey Hangover, owned, according to Annie Muegerl, the band’s lead singer and manager. As of now, the band will utilize a setup used for rehearsals and borrowed equipment from other bands in the local music scene for future gigs.
Though Hagen owned a commercial property insurance policy, Muegerl said the band did not have insurance of its own and is unsure whether Hagen’s insurance will cover their losses. A benefit to raise funds to replace the destroyed equipment is set for Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. at Rumors bar on Garrett Way in Pocatello. An online fundraiser is accessible by visiting www.gofundme.com/f/help-whiskey-hangover-replace-destroyed-equipment.
Hagen is working with insurance adjusters to finalize a claim on the 5 Mile’s destruction. He said he is holding off on fundraising efforts until that process has run its course.
One thing that is for certain is much like Hagen’s decision to rebuild his home on the same Cinnamon Ridge parcel of land following the Charlotte Fire, the 5 Mile will be back, Hagen said. Though he might not be able to rebuild the bar in the exact same location, Hagen said he plans to rebuild on the same lot as before.
“I am going to rebuild for dang sure,” Hagen said. “This building was grandfathered in to a ton of city ordinances because of how old it is, so I am not sure if the city of Chubbuck will let me rebuild in the exact same spot or push it back off of Yellowstone a little bit. But no matter what, we plan to be back.”