The entire residential section at New Frontier Treatment Center in Fallon was reduced to a heap of rubble after a fire started under the floor Monday evening and spread throughout the building.
Fallon-Churchill County firefighters, with help from NAS Fallon Federal Fire Department, worked throughout the night trying to contain the wind-driven blaze.
First Assistant Fire Chief Kurt Henning said the cause of the fire, which sent plumes of smoke from the building and caused the evacuation of nearby residents, is not immediately known. All 15 in-patient clients who were living at New Frontier and the center's staff evacuated safely.
"After about four hours we thought we had it contained, but it had gotten up into the walls and into the attic. There was nothing we could do," Henning said early Tuesday morning after the all-night ordeal. "The building has been remodeled so many times the fire got into these little nooks and crannies we couldn't get into."
He said the fire wasn't fully contained until about 4 a.m. Tuesday. It began at 6 p.m. Monday. Up to 10,000 square feet of the building was destroyed.
Fire Marshal Mitch Young asked for investigative help from the state fire marshal because of the extent of the damage to the building, which he estimated at "a million-plus."
He said it could take up to three days to sift through the rubble and determine what caused the fire.
"It's going to be a huge job and we needed more help," he said as he surveyed remains of the building. "At this point, we're just looking at a fire that may have started in a crawl space and got into the cavities of the walls and second floor."
Henning said firefighters initially attacked the inferno from inside and outside the structure. It soon became clear, he said, that the interior of the building was not safe for firefighters.
"At that point, the building was too compromised and we couldn't get into it," said Henning.
New Frontier is equipped with a fire alarm and sprinkler system, which both worked properly. Because the fire was burning under the floor and between the walls, the sprinklers couldn't douse the flames.
Henning said about 28 firefighters from the Fallon/Churchill County Volunteer Fire Department and 10 to 15 from NAS Fallon fought the fire all night.