A popular Horry County motorcycle bar was destroyed today by an early morning fire, according to an Horry County Fire Rescue official.
Firefighters were called by a passing motorist about 3:30 a.m. Monday for the blaze at HB Spokes Saloon at 1111 S.C. 9 East in Longs, said Todd Cartner, public information officer for Horry County Fire Rescue.
"We had several departments on scene and it was a three-alarm fire," Cartner said. ``I have never seen a fire this hot.’’
The fire comes 23 days before the area's fall biker rally, known as The Pilgrimage. Owner Larry Fowler fought back tears as he surveyed the ruins and said early Monday he will rebuild the bar and be open for a New Year’s Eve party.
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``I have to,’’ said Fowler, who noted he built the original bar in 83 days.
Firefighters responding to the call reported seeing flames from their station at S.C. 9 and Highway 57, Cartner said. Both lanes of S.C. 9 were closed to traffic until 4:45 a.m. while officials battled the blaze. It took firefighters until 5:15 a.m. to get the blaze under control, Cartner said. Seven fire stations, including North Myrtle Beach, Tabor City, N.C. and Calabash, N.C., responded to the blaze.
It is unclear what may have caused the fire, but fire investigators with an Horry County Fire Rescue arson dog will be on scene today looking for clues. It is the first assignment for Horry County Fire Rescue’s new arson dog, Navy, and his handler Deputy Fire Investigator James Cyganiewicz. They returned on Friday from a five-week training in Alfred, Maine. The dog is currently the only one in the state obtained through the State Farm Arson Dog Scholarship Program, officials said.
``He’s trained to go to the source,’’ Cyganiewicz said. ``The dog is just a tool to rule out the possibility of an ignitable liquid or he can find them.’’
Cyganiewicz, Fire Investigator William Martin and Navy, a 9-month-old Labrador and Golden Retriever mix, will search for the origin of the fire and where it burned the hottest during their investigation. Navy is trained to sit when he detects something, Cyganiewicz said.
Smoke continued to rise from the charred remains of the building at 8 a.m. today as a handful of people stopped along S.C. 9 to view the damages. Blacken debris littered the parking lot of the area, which sits on four acres, according to its Web site. About a dozen fire officials and several fire trucks remained on the scene this morning. A fire broke out in the retail area of the bar in January, but only moderate damage was reported. The cause of that fire was undetermined. The bar, which is home to various motorcycle activities during the biker rallies, also is host to various concerts including Sugarland, Josh Turner and Neal McCoy. It opened in 2002 as HD Spokes Saloon, but was later renamed. The saloon includes 10 indoor and outdoor bar areas, a 30,000 square foot outside deck, burnout pit and retail store.
- More details will be posted later today as they become available.