NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — A small fire that was contained to one booth at the popular Wurstfest grounds on Thursday night reignited on Friday morning and caused extensive damage to the Marktplatz building.
Firefighters said the second and larger fire started at about 6 a.m. at the grounds in New Braunfels. By the time the flames were put out, extensive damage had been done to the Marktplatz building, which houses food and market vendors. The roof partially collapsed onto the venue. Firefighters had to pull back the metal roof to gain access to the fire. Crews attacked the flames with water and a firefighting foam, which is made of soap.
Officials said that Marktplatz is a total loss after the fire ravaged the building just before dawn.
The big question right now is will Wurstfest be able to reopen next year after all this damage? That’s still very much up in the air.
Wurstfest organizers say they’ve survived disasters before, including a massive flood in 1998. They says they’ll rebuild be ready for next year's festival.
"We are going to work together and we are positive that we are going to be back." said Kelly Kistner, Chief of Security for Wurstfest. "The historic Wursthalle appears to have been spared from most of the fire. Wurstfest is a New Braunfels community celebration; our whole town puts it on. And Wurstfest and New Braunfels are resilient. We rebuilt after the flood. We will rebuild after this. We will be ready to host the 60th Wurstest on Nov. 6, 2020 during the 175th celebration of the founding of New Braunfels."
Many businesses that sell food or merchandise leave at least some of their equipment on the Wurstfest grounds year round. If their equipment was in the Marketplatz, it’s likely destroyed.
“Everything’s gone. All of a sudden - within an instant - it’s all gone," explained Ross Granzin, owner of Naegelin’s Bakery.
Granzin’s had a booth a Wurstfest since 1981. He says he probably out about $15,000 worth of equipment.
The city also shutdown the Comal River. Runoff, including ash, soot and firefighting foam spilled into the river. Firefighters say the foam is not toxic and shouldn’t hurt the wildlife.
The ATF along with state investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire.
The more iconic Halle Hall, which carries the logo on the side of the building, suffered some smoke and heat damage, but was otherwise still in tact.
A New Braunfels Fire Department spokesperson said no one was injured. The festival itself had just wrapped up its last days about a week ago.
“You have a very very fine firefighting force that is working diligently and is working with a lot of surrounding agencies, there’s a lot of coordination going on to make sure everyone is safe and as much of the structure that can be saved will be," said David Ferguson, spokesperson, New Braunfels Police Department.
A fire in a vendor booth at the Wurstfest Marktplatz has caused an estimated $50,000 in damages.
According to New Braunfels Fire Battalion Chief Mike Wehman, crews responded to the grounds for what he said was a smokey smell on the grounds.
Wehman said they arrived to a thick haze and an active fire in the vendor booth inside the Marktplatz building.
"Heavy smoke filled the entire Marktplatz area, which is a large, probably football field sized area," Wehman said. "Smoke was emitting out of the open door. It was thick smoke and got worse after we got here as the fire started to spread."
The fire itself was taken out quite quickly, according to Wehman, but he said the damage wasn't as limited as they would have liked.
"Because the booths are like free-standing buildings within the building, the flames did damage the roof structure of the Marktplatz part of the building, that will have to get looked at by an engineer at a later date to determine what kind of repairs they'll need to make," Wehman said.
There were a few Wurstfest staff members inside the building, but Wehman said no one was injured.
Wehman said he isn't speculating whether or not someone could have left something on from Wurstfest this past weekend to cause the fire.
"I wouldn't speculate, but it doesn't appear that something was left on," Wehman said. "The investigators are in there right now."
The investigation is ongoing.