In the construction industry, you have to be ready for anything at any time. You never know when a simple phone call will turn your day upside down, and being prepared for life’s inevitable curveballs is a huge part of being a successful construction company.
In May 2020, KLE tackled one of our most unique jobs ever: a massive building fire at a cafe in Roundup, Montana. On the morning of the fire, a volunteer firefighter happened to smell smoke near the Vintage Cafe on Main Street, and by the time fire crews arrived the flames were already engulfing much of the building.
Thankfully, KLE was working on a nearby project, only about a quarter-mile from the fire. When fire crews saw how quickly the fire was escalating, they called Martin Turner, a local from Roundup who was working on one of KLE’s crews. Martin got in touch with Charlie Norman, one of our foremen, and told Charlie that the fire department needed his help.
Charlie walked the excavator down the road where he helped to safely demolish the building. He started by creating a hole in the roof of the building so fire crews could get some water into it. Once he managed to open up the top of the building, Charlie tore the whole building down to the foundation. This provided firefighters with a way to access the fire without entering the burning building, while also helping to save the neighboring structures.
By the time the dust settled, the Vintage Cafe building and one adjacent structure were both lost to the fire. In addition, one firefighter had to be taken to the hospital due to smoke inhalation and exhaustion. If KLE employees hadn’t acted quickly and decisively, this disaster could have been significantly more damaging. Thankfully, the restaurant itself was empty at the time, as Vintage Cafe had not yet opened.
Cheri Salthe, the wife of Roundup’s fire chief, informed us that KLE’s assistance with the fire “helped save the block.” We couldn’t have done it without Charlie’s expert operating skills. KLE employee Junior Brunmeier was also invaluable in this situation because he handled communication between KLE and the firefighters. All told, this was a stressful and unusual event. While two buildings were lost in the fire, the efforts of our people helped save the surrounding structures. We’re grateful to have amazing people on our team who can jump in to help the community during such a tragic event.