Just two days after the long-time fixture and cornerstone of the town’s popular Raylrode Daze Festivul burned, officials are saying the Red Dog Saloon will be rebuilt.

“We’ve got a lot of people who have called us and volunteered to help build it back,” Branchville Mayor Tim Cooner said Wednesday. “We’re going to get together and gather up some people and get the area cleaned up. I think it’s going to be a community event to build it back.”

It was around 6:30 p.m. Monday when firefighters were called out to Branchville Junction, which is located just off U.S. 21 in the center of town.

Cooner said at least seven fire trucks from Branchville, Canaan, Cattle Creek and Rowesville fire departments responded.

It is believed that a couple of young people may have inadvertently caused the blaze, Cooner said, when a fire broke out near the blacksmith’s shop attached to the structure.

“We think it was children playing with fireworks,” Cooner said. “We’re dealing with the situation, and we’ll take care of it here.”

No charges are expected, he said.

The mayor estimates the damage to the structure will set the town back about $25,000.

Constructed entirely of wood, the Red Dog Saloon, as it was called, stood approximately 30 feet by 60 feet with a triangular roof. It was one of nine structures that make up Branch Junction, a replica of a western town.

Along with a blacksmith’s shop on the east side, the structure has served for nearly 39 years as a backdrop for gunfight performances during the festival and as a bingo hall on Thursday nights.

When not utilized during Raylrode Daze, the Red Dog Saloon served during winters as a storage shed for the Cal Smoak Special train. Five cars of the train were blackened in the blaze. The engine, however, is stored elsewhere and was not in the fire.

“That’s the second time they’ve burned,” Cooner said. “They burned around 1986 when we had them stored in an old shed.”

Town officials now say what’s left of the building is too badly damaged to be repaired. It was will have to be torn down, then reconstructed.

In the meantime, officials ask that passersby stay out of the charred ruin until the area can be cleared of debris.

“We wish people would stay away from it until we get it torn down,” Police Chief “Doc” Harriott said. “You could step on a nail, or that thing could fall. We’ll be working on it soon, but it’s got to be cleared up.”

Town officials have already met unofficially to discuss the details of rebuilding the structure. The hopes at this point are to have the Red Dog rebuilt before this year’s festival, which is six months away.

“We’re certainly going to try to have it back” before September, Cooner said. “We’ve got to tear it down. We’re getting pictures of what it looked like. I think … I’m not sure … but we’re going to build it back like it was.”

Within the next month, there will be a cleanup day at Branch Junction in an effort to clear the Red Dog Saloon lot.

Those who’d like to volunteer to help are asked to call the Branchville Town Hall at 803-274-8820.

T&D Staff Writer Richard Walker can be reached by e-mail at rwalker@timesanddemocrat.com or by telephone at 803-533-5516. Discuss this and other stories on-line at TheTandD.com.


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