Italia Caro

Spring is typically Bisbee’s busiest time of the year, when many snowbirds and other visitors come to the old mining town. This year, however, damage from a February fire on the town's main drag is complicating things, but business owners say there's still plenty to see and do in this Southeastern Arizona destination.

On February 14, two stores on Tombstone Canyon — the Many Fine Things antiques shop and Bisbee Olive Oil — caught fire and were destroyed, and the fire and its aftermath have continued to affect other businesses and the rest of the community. Reed Booth, the owner of nearby Killer Bee Honey, recalls seeing the flames from his home.

“My ranch is 2 miles from here, 2 miles from where the fire was,” Booth says. “I looked out and saw the billowing smoke and the glow of the embers of the flames, and I thought, Oh, my God, because I knew that was downtown.”

After the fire had been put out, Booth, like many other business owners, had to close his store to assess the damage. “It closed us down for a number of weeks — we were right next to where the fire happened,” he says. “It was pins and needles for quite a while until the next day, until we realized that our particular building did not burn, but it was right next to those that did, and so structural integrity was the next issue.”

While Booth and other businesses were assessing the damage and figuring out their next steps, the city began removing some of the brick facades that had survived the fire. “We had to focus on our part of public safety, and thus why the walls were taken down to a safe level, which is allowing us to be able to open our roads and sidewalks, plus being able to investigate the cause of the fire,” Bisbee Mayor Ken Budge says via email. “Once all that is done ... we shall turn over the buildings to the owners to overhaul and rehabilitate.”

As the city begins to rebuild, Bisbee has come together to support its businesses. Rob Page manages 2 Copper Queen Plaza, commonly known as Main Street Plaza. When he heard about the fire, he offered space in the plaza to affected businesses, including Bisbee Olive Oil.

“Bisbee Olive Oil approached us and asked us if we had any space, and we set up a cart for them and they’ve been in business since, I think, the day after the fire,” Page says. “I think they’ll probably stay here for the foreseeable future, because their building was in the heart of the fire.”

Bisbee residents are also encouraging travelers to continue to come to their town. “Certainly don’t avoid us — there’s nothing here to avoid, really,” Page says. “In fact, I think it’s more of a testament to Bisbee’s resilience and an opportunity for people in Arizona to come down and see what that means in a small town, and you’ll be able to witness firsthand the damage that was done by the fire. And then you can say, ‘I was there when I saw the burned-out buildings,’ and come back in about six months and see what we’ve done to rebuild. It’s going to be nice.”

And if a trip to Bisbee isn't in your immediate future, you can still support the city's businesses — many of which offer online shopping and ordering.