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RANGELY I A Rangely business owner lost her inventory and employment but was left with the remaining loan when a fire burned the building housing The Patch Supplies, an oilfield supply business, on New Year’s Day.
Laura Hennerman, who started The Patch Supplies in 2011 after working for longtime Continental Supply owner Red Hunnicutt, wanted to offer prices comparable to out-of-town suppliers and save local oilfield servicing companies trips out of town.
“I had high hopes for this, with as much business as is out there,” Hennerman said. “I was trying to cater to the oilfield, to keep them running smoothly here. If these guys can save three hours going to Vernal for parts, they can save big bucks. And I was doing a delivery to Meeker every other week.”
Taking out a loan and building her inventory meant that Hennerman had been without a paycheck since starting the business, though she was hopeful that this year could have brought in around $300 per month. It also meant that The Patch Supplies was without insurance even though Hennerman knew she needed it.
“I was slowly making it,” Hennerman said. “I was pricing insurance and just wasn’t ready for payments, what with trying to keep on top of my current payments and keep inventory available.”
Emergency responders received the call about the fire at 15777 Highway 64 West at approximately 9:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day. Rio Blanco County Sherriff’s Office deputy Jarrod Lang arrived at the scene minutes after the callout.
“There was visible smoke coming from the ceiling and all four sides of the building, and visible flames coming from the east side of the building,” Lang said.
The Rangely Rural Fire Protection District (RRFPD), which arrived on scene at approximately 9:40 a.m., initially entered the building but soon realized the structure was beginning to collapse.
“The back half was fully involved when we got there,” RRFPD first lieutenant Mike Cushman said. “It became unsafe to put anybody in there. We weren’t there for 10 or 15 minutes before that roof started falling in.”
Firefighters continued fighting the blaze with hoses until it became clear that the building was a loss.
“We starting throwing water on it and pumped, I’d say, 2,000 gallons of water on it,” Cushman said. “We kept fighting the fire for a good hour until we decided that we couldn’t save it. It was already too involved.”
Deputy Lang said the cause of the fire is still under investigation but that a possible chimney fire is to blame.
“There were electric heaters left on, but looking at the destruction of building, we’ve been able to determine where the fire started,” Lang said. “It was in same area as the woodstove, not where the heaters were at.”
What was left of the building continued to smolder for almost three days after the initial blazes were put out, Lang said. The sherriff’s office expects to complete its investigation this week.
Now Hennerman is trying to figure out what’s next.
“I think I scrap everything and try to find a job and don’t look back,” Hennerman said. “Unless the whole community just says, ‘Come on, get back on and ride, we’ll be there for you.’”
That Hennerman still has all of her business files thanks to the fire department is one plus. She also has the support of husband Walter, whatever she decides to do. Challenges to starting the business anew include matching the $300 per month rent she was paying for the building and reinvesting in new inventory.
Whatever the future holds, Hennerman is trying to look ahead rather than behind her.
“What is already is,” Hennerman said. “I just want to move forward and trust. I don’t know why it happened. There might not be a why. Bad things happen to everybody. But we’ll pull through this, one way or another.”