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Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, South Dakota, called itself "The World's Biggest Biker Bar"

Fire that apparently started early Tuesday morning destroyed the business, fire department says

Emmett the donkey is OK, CNN affiliate reports

CNN  — 

A tavern that billed itself as “The World’s Biggest Biker Bar” was destroyed by fire early Tuesday morning.

The Full Throttle Saloon hosted thousands of bikers who traveled to Sturgis, South Dakota, for an annual biker rally, reported CNN affiliate KOTA of Rapid City.

It held as many as 15,000 people on a rally night, owner Michael Ballard said on the bar’s website. One employee said on a really busy night as many as 20,000 people would come in.

The cause of the fire is unknown, the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department said. The bar was made of wood and steel beams.

Photos posted on the Fire Department Facebook page showed nothing but smoking debris where the sprawling building once stood.

One person was on the grounds but woke up and escaped without injuries, the fire department said.

The bar mascot, a donkey named Emmett, was not injured either, KOTA reported.

Assistant Fire Chief Scott Lensegrave told KOTA the fire was so big firefighters had leave the building. Six fire departments battled the blaze.

“It was a very hot fire. There was a lot of dry wood in there that they built their stuff out of for the last few years,” he said.

“I’m kind of sick to my stomach,” saloon artist Dean Mauldein said to KOTA. “I’ve been here 11 years. Hopefully we will rebuild.”

The bar was also the site of a reality show that ran five years. It was only open for two to three weeks around the time of the rally.

The annual bike rally was August 1-8.