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Rugby business destroyed by fire

By Staff | Jul 5, 2011

The Rugby Volunteer Fire Department received a 9-1-1 call at 3:24 p.m. on Saturday, June 25. They responded at 3:30 p.m. to a structure fire at Don’s Drive In.

By 4:00 p.m. the fire was under control, according to firefighter Dave Schneibel, Jr. The structure was a total loss, he added.

Laurel Feist was outside painting the sign at the Drive In and she heard a crackle sound and then out of the corner of her eye she saw flames in the restaurant. She hollered for Don and found him trying to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. She dialed 9-1-1 but reached someone in a nearby town in error, so she ran to the highway, but by that time she heard the sirens and knew help was on its way.

On Monday, June 27, the sign read, “Welcome to Don’s Driv”, the paint was still sitting there with the paintbrush in the container forgotten in the emergency. Someone had put the cover on the paint can.

“We sure appreciate whoever called 9-1-1,”said Laurel. “We also appreciate the people who stopped by and helped us move our vehicles and pull other stuff out.”

Firefighter Brad Cichos was one of the first on the scene. He had been across the street when his wife said to him that it looks like Don’s is on fire. He drove immediately to the fire hall to get the first truck and a couple of firefighters. Some of the Rugby firefighters were sandbagging in Velva, so another siren rang out to call the retirees in. The siren rang a third time, but Cichos and crew were on the scene by then.

“The flames on the south side of the building had partially engulfed the restaurant when we got there just a few minutes later,” said Cichos.

The cause has not yet been determined.

“We just don’t know,” said Laurel. “It’s such an old building.”

Schneibel said the fire department does not make determinations on how fires start. He added that in North Dakota whenever there is a structure fire, the state fire marshall comes down and tries to determine the cause.

The agencies that responded to the fire call were Rugby Police, Pierce County Sheriff, the HAMC Ambulance Service and an officer from the Border Patrol. Towner Fire Department provided mutual aid.

The restaurant which is known for its homemade soups and specials of the day is not open on weekends. The Feists were there to spruce up the place in anticipation of this weekend’s 125th celebration in Rugby.

Laurel and Don Feist purchased the restaurant then named “Munchies” from Jerry Paul, Mandan, in 1989. They opened under the name Don’s Drive In on July 21 of that year.

Don Feist had worked 10 years in the restaurant business before purchasing the Rugby restaurant.

The Feists operated the restaurant all year around rather than only in the summer as it had been run previously.

Laurel Feist said that they would not be able to rebuild. She was looking for employment already on Monday.

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