Dubbe Moulder Architects  |  Jackson - Wyoming

Blog

We keep you informed of our business happenings and post about a variety of subjects on architecture.

A fire at Brooks Lake Lodge turned into an opportunity

 
The lodge entrance, and the roof with a protective layer after the chimney fire.

The lodge entrance, and the roof with a protective layer after the chimney fire.

Brooks Lake Lodge, located in Fremont County in Wyoming, in the Absaroka Range, is a beautiful historic lodge named after the seventh governor of Wyoming, Bryant B. Brooks. The structure was built in 1922 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally a stopover for vacationers, it was next a dude ranch, and is today a luxury lodge and spa for a limited number of guests.

On July 28, a fire started in the middle of the night; the property manager discovered it and called the firefighters in Dubois. It was determined that the fire was probably started from stray embers in the large fireplace that serves the dining hall and tea room, a lounge area that leads out to the covered veranda with a view of the lake.

The fire was under control in about two hours which was remarkably fast, considering the fire started in and around the chimney base which is the center of all of the historic log connections for the structure which are approaching a hundred years old. Upon these log assemblies rest a multitude of layers: log trusses, log purlins, log rafters, wood decking, and a whole series of layers of subsequent build-up of the roof for increased insulation. Consequently, there was significant opportunity within those layers for embers to be trapped in and be undetected because of the old wood products.

The lodge roof with its temporary cover and the chimney where the fire occurred.

The lodge roof with its temporary cover and the chimney where the fire occurred.

Ironically enough, the owners of Brooks Lake Lodge own Café Genevieve in Jackson, Wyoming (also listed on the National Register of Historic Places), which suffered a kitchen fire in early July. At that time, Dubbe Moulder Architects were contacted by the owner group to help with the fire damage repair because of our historic preservation knowledge and experience working with older log structures. Just over three weeks later, the chimney fire occurred at Brooks Lake Lodge and the project manager representing the owners contacted us again for the same type of professional services.

The fire damage affected a large portion of the ceiling.

The fire damage affected a large portion of the ceiling.

In these two situations, we had to coordinate the site observations and inspections with the insurance adjusters and their own team of building experts, who are forensics engineers who evaluate the cases, in order to determine the extent of an insurance claim settlement with respect to replacing and/or repairing existing materials. In both the café and the lodge, important character-defining features and some of the historic integrity of the buildings were impacted. Fortunately, the owner group on both projects are committed to restoring and rehabilitating the fire damaged portions of the historic fabric back to their pre-fire conditions.

Burnt log ridge, purlins and rafters

Burnt log ridge, purlins and rafters

At Brooks Lake Lodge, we met with the whole group on-site, including all the insurance adjusters. We analyzed layers and layers of different roofing that was removed. For the life of the structure, new layers of roofing had been installed on to the old, the accumulation of which posed a risk to trapped stray embers. Obviously wanting to mitigate such risk in the future, we agreed that we had an opportunity to significantly improve conditions while respecting the historic fabric by creating an entirely new roof system. The fire gave us the opportunity to improve the performance of the building by removing 12 inches of accumulated layers of shingles and shakes, insulation and sheathing. The goal was to remove all of the buildup above the historic layers so that we could inspect the original board decking. Upon this primary roof sheathing, we will be placing a 12-inch I-joist (an engineered framing member). We will then be able to, from the top down, install spray urethane foam within the 12” cavity which has a very high R-value per inch. This will result in a very thermally efficient roof with an R-value of 63. The new roof will dramatically improve the thermal performance of this historic building, without compromising the character defining features of the eave fascia, the soffit, and the overall character of the roof or the stone chimney penetration through the roof. The new roof will be constructed over the main portion of the lodge as well as the wings, physically contacting them for visual consistency.

The roof repairs and improvements, with new rafters being installed. These rafters were just harvested and cut from the forest surrounding the lodge, in accordance with the original building making. Image © Brooks Lake Lodge owner.

The roof repairs and improvements, with new rafters being installed. These rafters were just harvested and cut from the forest surrounding the lodge, in accordance with the original building making. Image © Brooks Lake Lodge owner.

In regards to the original log members of the structure, analysis has shown that the fire char was too deep, and the damage to the wood was too severe to be able to repair the logs. Dubbe Moulder Architects team has mapped out the different hierarchies of remediation which will include log replacement, log repair, and log clearing. The owners are now in the process of harvesting replacement logs from standing dead lodge pole pines directly from the forest next to the premises. The original ones were harvested from the same forest a hundred years ago.

Along with the new roof and selective log remediation, we’re taking this unfortunate circumstance to evaluate other maintenance and performance challenges such as windows, doors, thresholds, weather stripping, and the chinking or daubing between the logs. This work would be beyond the insurance claim but it is the perfect opportunity to ultimately ensure many years of good, reliable and efficient performance of this wonderful historic structure.