A late-night fire Sunday destroyed a historic restaurant near Huson.
Firefighters from Frenchtown were notified of the fire at the Nine Mile House located off Highway 10 at about 10:30 p.m.
While en route to the fire, firefighters were told the structure was fully involved, said Mel Holtz of the Frenchtown Rural Fire Department.
“When I got here at about 11, there were flames shooting through the roof,” Holtz said.
More than 30 firefighters from Frenchtown, Missoula Rural and East Missoula responded to fight the fire. They brought 15 engines and five water tenders.
Holtz said it took about two hours for firefighters to knock down most of the large flames.
The nearest water was a couple of miles away in Alberton.
“It was about a 25-minute turnaround for the water tenders,” Holtz said. “It was challenging. Highway 10 was icy in some places. We had some snow flurries. … We ended up putting quite a bit of water on this.”
One water tender alone hauled 14,000 gallons.
Highway 10 was closed for four to five hours. Holtz said sand was brought in to provide solid footing for firefighters working in below-freezing temperatures.
The 1940s-vintage building had been through a number of renovations and updates over the years. That hodgepodge of construction created its own set of challenges for firefighters.
“It was quite old,” Holtz said. “We had our hands full.”
On top of fighting the fire, Frenchtown volunteer firefighters also responded to five medical calls during the night.
The restaurant closed at 10 p.m. Holtz said there was no one inside the building at the time of the fire.
Fire officials remained on the scene Monday morning doing investigation and mop-up work.
Since the building was unsafe to enter, an excavator was called to assist in removing materials to allow firefighters access so they could extinguish existing hotspots, Holtz said.
“The building is a complete loss,” Holtz said just before noon Monday. “There is still quite a bit of it that’s still smoking. The floor is very unstable. Half of it was covered by a metal roof. When those collapse, they hold in the heat.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
On Monday morning, a steady stream of people stopped by to see for themselves what had occurred to a piece of the area’s history.
The original Nine Mile House was built in 1893 across the highway from the building that burned Sunday. It served the community as a two-story hotel, restaurant and dance hall.
That building was constructed by George Brown and run by his son, George “Nine Mile” Brown, until he died in the 1930s.
The building that burned was built in 1946-47.
“There have been a lot of people stop by and tell us their stories about this place,” Holtz said. “It’s a sad day for the Huson community.”