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Downtown landmark damaged by fire
new downtown fire pic
Fire units from several area communities came together to control a fire at Diggers, a bar in the 1300 block of Kansas. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

For a long time, it was the Great Bend Petroleum Club.
In the mid-’80s, it was the Five Oaks Supper Club.
Most recently it has been Diggers, a downtown bar at 1318 Kansas, and late Wednesday night it sustained more than $100,000 in fire damage, according to Fire Chief Mike Napolitano.
Fire departments from seven area communities responded to the downtown fire, in part, Napolitano explained, because at one point it appeared that the fire could move into several more of the older buildings in the 1300 block of Kansas.
The fire chief said that just after 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, a report was called in of smoke coming out of the roof of Diggers.
The fire department, police department and Barton County Sheriff’s Office all responded to the scene.
Napolitano reported that when they arrived, they found heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear of the building.
Heat and smoke made it difficult to enter the rear part of the structure.
Firefighters were able to enter the front or the business and they were able to locate fire towards the rear of the building, according to the fire chief.
Not only had the fire spread across the building, it had also moved into the upper parts of the building.
“The fire had extended in to the attic area which led to a strong probability of the fire spreading south to the adjacent building and continue to the rest of the block,” the fire chief reported.
It was when that danger was determined that outside agencies were contacted for mutual aid, Napolitano noted.
He explained that ladder trucks from Ellsworth, Russell and Hays were called for and they responded as part of a mutual aid agreement.
As it turned out, he explained, the equipment was not needed, because firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to those adjacent structures.
Though the equipment was not needed, Napolitano said the firefighters from those other agencies did help, along with the Ellinwood Fire Department.
Also, the fire chief reported, Claflin and Hoisington ambulance teams responded to local calls, freeing up Great Bend Fire Department personnel for the fire.
The fire was brought under control around 1 a.m., though fire personnel were at the scene all night, “mopping up” and securing the scene.
Thursday morning, fire investigation, utilizing local officials and an investigator from the Kansas State Fire Marshall’s Office, began an investigation of the scene.
Late in the morning, Capt. Luke McCormick reported it was determined that the fire started near an electrical distribution panel.
While it could not be ruled out that an electrical malfunction started the blaze, McCormick said the exact cause was ruled undetermined.