Fire destroys well-known saloon in St. Helena Parish

A fire tore through Bear Creek Saloon in Montpelier early Sunday, destroying the famed bar and music establishment hours after rock and country star Aaron Lewis graced the stage.

The fire began shortly after 3 a.m., state Fire Marshal Butch Browning said, and required more than 75 firefighters from several fire departments to extinguish the blaze.

When firefighters arrived, about 30 percent of the building was on fire, including the roof, with the nearest fire hydrant about 5 miles away.

Tanker trucks were called to ferry water to firefighters, Browning said.

The blaze did not reach the adjacent Bear Creek Western Store.

Investigators have been unable to begin their probe of the blaze because the remains of the building were still too hot Sunday for anyone to get close to the building, Browning said.

Beginning at 7 a.m. Monday, about a dozen investigators with heavy equipment and dogs will begin recreating the scene, Browning said, to try to find the point of origin and cause of the fire.

“Right now, we don’t have anything to go on, just a lot of information we’re vetting through,” Browning said. “We’re treating it as a crime scene and securing it thus far until we can determine the cause of the fire.”

He said arson is not suspected at this point of the investigation.

The Bear Creek Saloon, which is in St. Helena Parish, has hosted prominent country music stars, including Garth Brooks, Charlie Daniels and Blake Shelton, for more than 30 years, the saloon’s website says. Live music was presented each Saturday night.

Browning said there was no one in the building when it caught fire.

“They had a very large concert and there were a lot of people in that building, and if the fire had occurred earlier, it could have certainly been a different situation,” Browning said.