Rangely restaurant fire under CBI investigation

Owners planned to re-open Oct. 1
RANGELY — Vicky Reeves, owner of Cowboy Corral, the Rangely restaurant that burned down late last week, has plenty of questions.
Including what started the early morning fire Sept. 19 that destroyed the long-time local restaurant.
“It was quite a shock,” said Reeves, who owns the business with her husband, Jerry. “It was really hard to believe.”
The cause of the blaze is under investigation. A fire investigator with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was on the scene last Friday.
“They (the CBI) will make a determination,” said Rangely Police Chief Vince Wilczek. “It is still under investigation.”
The fire call came in at 12:46 a.m.
Ironically, it was Rangely Fire Chief Mike Cushman who reported the fire. He lives behind First National Bank of the Rockies, which is next to the restaurant, located on Main Street.
“I smelled some smoke,” Cushman said. “You get that distinct smell. I came out on the back porch and saw smoke. I called it in and said to page it out (to the volunteer firefighters).”
Local firefighters used a ladder truck and a pumper truck to battle the blaze.
The building was “fully involved” when firefighters arrived, Cushman said.
Reeves had recently taken over the restaurant again after Shay McCormick, who had been running the place, turned in his keys. That was on Sept. 16. Three days later, the restaurant was gone.
McCormick had shut down the restaurant Sept. 14.
“He couldn’t make a go of it,” Reeves said. “He was supposed to lease it for a year and then buy it. But when he didn’t pay me on the 15th, I kind of knew it was going to happen (taking back over the restaurant).”
Reeves said McCormick was going to purchase the restaurant for $240,000.
Reeves has owned the restaurant for four and a half years, she said. Before that, she worked there as a waitress.
“When it opened as the Cowboy Corral, 20 or 25 years ago, I worked there as the head waitress,” Reeves said.
For Mardy McAlister, waitressing at the Cowboy Corral was the only job she ever had. She worked for different owners.
“I worked there, probably, 24 or 25 years,” McAlister said. “That’s all I’ve ever done. It’s the only job I’ve ever had.”
She found out about the fire early last Friday morning.
“My daughter called me at 1:30 a.m.,” McAlister said. “She works at the police department. I went down there as soon as she called. The whole building was burning when I got there.”
Now, McAlister will be forced to look for different work, at least in the interim.
“I don’t know what I will do,” McAlister said. “I guess I will look for a job somewhere.”
She’s hoping to return to the restaurant, someday.
“But it would take a long time to rebuild,” McAlister said.
After taking back over the restaurant, Reeves was in the process of cleaning it. She had intended to reopen the restaurant Oct. 1. She had even hoped to be open for business this weekend for the Rangely Rock Crawlers Trail Ride.
“There’s no place to eat breakfast in this town,” Reeves said. “That’s why I was trying to get it open as soon as I could.”
Betsy Jensen was one of those people who was anticipating the restaurant re-opening.
“I was looking forward to it,” said Jensen, who planned to quit her job at Walmart in Vernal, Utah, and start waitressing at the restaurant.
She stopped by the fire scene last Friday to take photos of the burned-out business.
McCormick had been running the restaurant since April 15.
“I was trying to purchase it,” he said. “But I couldn’t make it, so I gave the keys back to her (Reeves) and said I’m done.”
Asked why the restaurant wasn’t making it, McCormick said, “I couldn’t get employees.”
McCormick was also at the fire scene last Friday to survey the damage.
“I’m betting it was an electrical fire of some sort, or something with the gas,” he said.
McCormick said he planned to go back to work for Dalbo, the trucking company that transports fluids for the oil and gas industry.
Meanwhile, Reeves said she was waiting to find out what the CBI fire investigator and a fire investigator for her insurance company had to say.
“I really don’t know,” she said. “It will be costly to build from the ground up. I will need to wait and see. I would love to be able to build a new restaurant here, but I’m not sure if I would be able to afford it.”