Betsy Swanback

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July 18, 2013
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Club owner hurt by innuendo

The owner of the Chrome Nightclub, which was destroyed by fire Wednesday, said he got an eerie feeling from seeing the charred heap that was the building he spent $125,000 to remodel.

“I can’t even describe how it makes me feel looking at that building,” Ben Bass said today.

Bass, who also owns Bass Motors in Roseburg, leased the building and opened Chrome Nightclub last spring. Fire investigators are probing into what caused the early morning blaze.

The nightclub at 2455 N.E. Diamond Lake Blvd. remained roped off with red and yellow caution tape today as investigators looked at potential causes. Investigators took photos from the air and from the inside and outside of the building Wednesday.

The fire started within an hour of employees leaving around 12:45 a.m. The time frame, and “the way the fire spread fast and that it was very difficult to get under control, could be an indicator of a suspicious fire, but we haven’t been able to determine that,” Roseburg Fire Marshal Tony DiMare said.

Roseburg police are helping with the investigation, and an Oregon State Police arson investigator from Medford planned to join the investigation today.

Investigators have interviewed Bass and his employees.

“We’re looking at everything combined. We definitely want to determine if the fire was intentional or accidental,” DiMare said. “We’re looking at all kinds of things about the building ... to eliminate anything that could have been a cause,” he said.

The extent of the destruction, which left 2 to 3 feet of debris on the ground, will make the investigation difficult, DiMare said.

“It’s a total loss,” he said. “There’s not much of anything you could salvage.”

Bass said he has been hurt by speculation in social media about the cause of the fire.

Comments posted on Facebook and in response to media reports imply, without proof, that the fire was set for personal gain.

“It just really hurts, actually. It is Roseburg, people are going to say negative things when they have no idea what’s going on,” Bass said.

Bass said he learned of the fire around 3 a.m. when his bar manager woke him up with the news.

“I got up immediately and drove straight there. Of course I’m thinking it might be a small little grease fire, something minor,” he said. “When we got there, the whole place was engulfed in flames.”

The 54-year-old building had been occupied by a succession of bars over the years, including Cowgirls, a strip bar that was the target of protesters and ultimately closed in 2007.

Bass said his nightclub was profitable.

An air conditioning unit was installed Monday, the only electrical change since the club opened in March, Bass said.

Bass said the fire does not seem real yet.

He said he feels bad for the employees and is not sure what they are going to do, but is thankful the building was unoccupied and no one was injured in the blaze.

“I can’t imagine if people were trapped inside there. That’s the most important thing to me,” he said.

Bass said he planned to go back to the site today to see if there is anything salvageable from the club’s office.

“I’ll be working with investigators until we can figure out how the fire started,” he said. “Then we can just get this thing resolved and over with.”

• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or by email at

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The News-Review Updated Jul 19, 2013 11:14AM Published Jul 20, 2013 12:17PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.