On a lovely, clear day, May 14, 1960, a massive plume of black smoke arose from the center of Arvada - the Metz Lumber Company was ablaze! The smoke could be seen throughout the Denver Metro area and drew huge crowds of onlookers.
The Arvada Volunteer Fire Department was on the scene in about one minute. The volunteer firemen had been training during the day, and were just sitting down to dinner at the fire house when they received the call. The fire station was just a few blocks from the fire.
Metz Lumber Fire
Early in the firefight, Chief Fritz Sedlmayr made two very important decisions that saved Arvada (today known as Olde Town):
1. He called for help. Seven additional area fire departments responded, resulting in an 8-alarm fire.
2. Recognizing that the only source of water to fight this fire was the Arvada Water Tower, Fritz asked the Police Chief - Leonard “Smitty” Smith - to send his officers to every home and business in Arvada to request that the citizens not use water until the fire was controlled. Police officers visited Arvada homes and businesses with the request.
The additional help from area fire departments assured that the many embers falling on nearby roofs were quickly extinguished. The Police Department’s help ensured that there was enough water to fight the blaze.
Residents of Arvada rallied around their volunteer firefighters. Local groceries made sandwiches delivered to the firefighters. Three local doctors opened a temporary office nearby to treat any injuries from the fire - at no charge. Residents delivered water and coffee to the firefighters.
The fire was brought under control in about two hours. However, for the following week, volunteer firemen were at the scene, 24 hours every day, to assure that hot spots did not reignite the fire. Several days after the fire, wisps of smoke could still be seen rising from the site.
The expertise of the Arvada volunteer firemen saved the town, and today’s National Historic District. Only the Metz Lumber company building was a total loss. Across the street, four apartments (the 2nd floor of today’s Schoolhouse Restaurant) were damaged, but the structure remained sound. The only reported injury was a fireman who reported a burn on a finger.
Weeks afterward, it was learned that the fire was arson. A few weeks after the Metz Fire, a lumber company in Lakewood was set ablaze. Onlookers noticed a man dressed as a fireman, but he was dancing and singing. The onlookers reported this unusual behavior to the police. The man later confessed to setting the Metz Lumber fire, the Lakewood fire, and a fire in Wheat Ridge a few weeks before the Metz Fire. He was sentenced to eight years in the Colorado State Penitentiary.
After the 1960 fire, the site became a parking lot. No structure was built there. In 2006, the site of the Metz Lumber Company was transformed into today’s Town Square at Olde Wadsworth and W. 57th - next to the Arvada Library.
In October, 2012, Arvada Fire dedicated a new historic panel celebrating 100 years of fire protection and detailing the Metz Fire, complete with photos. The panel is located in Town Square, by the kiosk.