Outdoors blog

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2013, 11:29 A.M.

Fire claims Avery Trading Post along St. Joe River

The St. Joe Pub and Grill, formerly the landmark Avery Trading Post, went up in flames starting around 1 a.m. on July 16, 2013. (Mertz Wuts)
The St. Joe Pub and Grill, formerly the landmark Avery Trading Post, went up in flames starting around 1 a.m. on July 16, 2013. (Mertz Wuts)

FLY FISHING -- BYOB if you’re heading to the Avery area of the St. Joe River this weekend.

The St. Joe Pub and Grill, formerly the landmark Avery Trading Post, went up in flames around 1 a.m. on Tuesday in a blaze that tested the will of locals to keep it from spreading.

The aftermath has left the town’s main drag a lot drier, and looking like a hockey player’s smile.

But the fishing continues to be excellent on the St. Joe River, said Ben Scheffelmaier of Scheffy’s Motel.

Following is a first-hand account of the fire from The Rev. Cynthia Wuts, who was with her family for a fly fishing adventure in the area when they just happened to be bunked in a hot spot that had nothing to do with fishing.

Around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, I was awakened by someone honking his horn on the street where were staying. We heard a couple guys yelling and I went to look out the window to see what the commotion was and saw some sparks flying and thought it was crazy kids partying and lighting fireworks, which is not unusual in Avery. 

Then I noticed that there was a brighter, orange glow, brighter than the street lights reflecting on the building across the street. I opened our door to the outside and saw that the tavern next door had flames shooting through the roof. I got (the others) out of bed and we got out of there as the two buildings are fairly close together. A wooden shed sits between them and it had lumber and old tires on the roof...not to mention the propane tank alongside the tavern.

My husband got us in the car and moved it a good distance away and when he determined it that the flames were still far enough away from our building, they … ran over to help one of the townspeople who had arrived with some fire hoses. The tavern was fully involved in just a matter of minutes and totally destroyed.

No one was hurt. However the thought I had as did most folks was "thank God this wasn't August" or the fire would have quickly ran up the forested hill behind the tavern and thrown enough embers to set other buildings (including a fuel pumping station just up the road from the tavern) on fire and it could have been a real catastrophe.

Avery is a very small village with mostly old wooden buildings in a narrow river canyon, so it wouldn't have taken long for falling embers to have started the rest of the town and surrounding forest on fire.

The next morning the owner of the fly fishing shop went up the mountain road on the opposite side of Avery and found where embers had fallen onto Kelly Crick Rd. about a 1/2 mile away. We were very thankful that someone driving by saw the flames and awakened the town folks. Had that not happened the fire would have spread to our place of lodging and we would've been jumping out the window!

Also we're thankful no one was injured while fighting the fire.
Here are some pictures we took...The first picture is the structure fully involved. Photo 2 is when it collapsed and the last one was taken the following morning around 10 a.m.

(BTW, I caught the biggest fish of the trip.)

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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