Investigators suspect a fire that tore through the landmark Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse in Cave Creek Thursday morning was intentionally set, according to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Firefighters were actually called out on two occasions to battle fires at the restaurant Thanksgiving morning. Crews initially responded around 7 a.m. to a fire in a bathroom they classified as “suspicious.”
Rural Metro Fire Department spokesman Colin Williams says crews were confident they extinguished the fire. But two hours later, sheriff’s officers who were at the restaurant investigating the blaze discovered that a fire was burning into the building’s attic.
That fire spread throughout the bar’s main building, which firefighters say is now a total loss.
“We have our arson detectives out here. We’re going to do everything we can to get to the bottom of this situation,” Arpaio said Thursday evening.
Buffalo Chip Saloon is located off Cave Creek Road, near Tom Darlington Drive. The bar is well known for its cowboy-themed memorabilia, live bull riding, and dancing to live music.
“People who had come here and danced forever, there was a little setup for each one when they died. A little memorial,” said longtime patron Charles Schillingburg. “There is no replacement for this place at all. There isn’t any place like this at all to go.”
Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of musical instruments and audio equipment belonging to two house bands were destroyed in the fire, said musician Tom Wagner. His band, Tom Wagner and County Line, has played at the Buffalo Chip three nights a week for the last seven years.
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