South Dakota Saloon Owner Says Power Cord Caused Fire

September 18, 2015

The fire that destroyed the Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, S.D., was caused by a malfunctioning electrical cord, according to the owner of the popular biker bar.

“We had a keg cooler behind the main bar, and (workers) had pulled it out multiple times whether for cleaning or switching kegs out,” Michael Ballard said. “When they pushed it back, it crinked the power cord and it didn’t break the power cord open so that it would arc and throw a breaker. It heated the cord up and beside the cooler was a cardboard box. The cord caught the box on fire, and that’s what ignited this fire.”

Federal, state and local officials investigated the Sept. 8 fire. Officials earlier this week ruled the blaze accidental but didn’t give an exact cause.

The business was billed as “The World’s Largest Biker Bar” and had been the subject of the truTV series “Full Throttle Saloon,” which aired for several seasons starting in 2009. It was a hotspot during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which draws hundreds of thousands of bikers to the Sturgis area each summer.

The loss is estimated at $10 million. Ballard said insurance won’t cover the entire cost, and he isn’t sure yet if he’ll rebuild the bar whose amenities included zip lines, musical stages and rental cabins.

“I know in my heart I cannot re-create this place,” he said. “It’s impossible to re-create what was here. This place grew organically over 17 years, and every year me putting back into it, and building another building or building another bar area, or buying atmosphere, and bringing in stuff from all four corners of the United States.”

Some of the items destroyed in the fire were sentimental. They included motorcycle helmets placed on the walls in memory of people who had died, and military medals and patches hung by veterans, Ballard said. Hundreds of people also have been married on the property.

“I’m still digesting everything about rebuilding or what we’re going to do or how we’re going to move forward,” Ballard said. “You know, this is just like losing a family member and trying to replace that family member a week from now. You can’t even comprehend having to go down that road.”

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