What began as an easily dealt with fire at the Wurstfest Marktplatz on Thursday night turned into something else entirely on the morning of Nov. 15 as a column of smoke billowed out of the historic festival grounds.
Thursday night’s fire was contained to two vendor booths in the Marktplatz, where damages were estimated at $50,000 by city fire officials, but that wasn’t an issue by the end of Friday’s blaze — believed reignited by leftover hotspots — because the
Marktplatz was declared structurally unsound with Ethan Lindner, city fire marshal, saying it would have to be torn down.
Firefighters and fire engines from Seguin, Canyon Lake, San Marcos, Cibolo, Selma and Schertz spent about an hour and a half helping New Braunfels Fire Department get the fire under control.
The Wurstfest Association had begun implementing more than $500,000 in safety improvements, with several in place for the recent 10-day festival, which ended Nov. 10.
While some fire alarms were installed, officials said installation of fire sprinklers had not been completed.
Investigators looking into the fire wrapped up their probe a few days later, labeling the cause as ‘undetermined.’
“We’re not ruling out two possibilities — a faulty light bulb or the improper storage of combustibles next to a heat-producing item.”
Officials with Wurstfest wasted no time in sending the message about the future.
2019 Wurstfest President Jim Hill said, “We will rebuild.”
Judy Young, vice president of the New Braunfels Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Wurstfest is a very important event and organization for the New Braunfels community and has been for nearly 60 years.
“The opportunities it’s provided for our nonprofits to have concessions on the grounds means a great deal to the financial viability of nonprofits in our area,” Young said. “It’s always been a place where the collective community pride gets to live during those 10 days.”
In December, at the city’s annual Wassailfest, a concert by Wade Bowen, sponsored by Platinum Custom Homes in partnership with the city of New Braunfels, the New Braunfels Downtown Association and the Bowen Family Foundation, raised an estimated $25,000 for the nonprofits affected by the fire.
After meeting with representatives from all the affected nonprofits, Wurstfest has put together a rebuild committee and is working with the nonprofits on planning for next year’s festival, said Suzanne Herbelin, executive director of Wurstfest.
“Our meeting with them went great we had everybody there so they could be brought up to speed and so we could give out instructions on what to do for those who carried insurance,” Herbelin said.
Herbelin said Wurstfest is planning to meet with concessionaires again during the first week of January.
“(Folks) can donate by going to our website and can find a (nonprofit) they’d like to help support,” Herbelin said. “Many of these are facing significant expenses and had inventory or equipment lost, and anyone who wasn’t insured may have to pay out of pocket.”