Fire destroys 2 downtown Richardton buildingsRICHARDTON — As winds picked up and darkness enveloped the sleepy town, firefighters continued extinguishing a massive blaze engulfing two buildings since midmorning Wednesday.
RICHARDTON — As winds picked up and darkness enveloped the sleepy town, firefighters continued extinguishing a massive blaze engulfing two buildings since midmorning Wednesday.
After a fire began in the front of a building housing a former Hardware Hank store at about 11:30 a.m., the flames spread west to what once was the Elkhorn Bar, said Wayne Baer of the Richardton Fire Department.
None of the buildings were inhabited at the time, Baer said.
A Taylor firefighter said he didn’t believe anyone was injured but could not make a confirmation.
“Right now it’s not anything other than a fire and it’s under investigation, period,” Deputy State Fire Marshal Donald Temple said. “We have nothing to say it’s arson. We have no indications any way at this point.”
The flames burned the entire building’s length, about half a city block, but no surrounding buildings needed to be evacuated, Baer said.
At about 4:40 p.m., firefighters entered a neighboring vacant bank to make sure fire had not spread.
Firefighters were still trying to extinguish the blaze at about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Amid below-freezing temperatures, many firefighters sported icicle-clad faces and mustaches.
Extinguishing efforts left the building’s face shimmering with frozen water streaks and ice chunks and antennae-like ice protrusions spewed out of windows.
But, that wasn’t the only thing freezing in the tundra-like temperatures.
Baer said firefighters were battling freezing water lines.
Firefighting efforts were collaborative, including the Hebron, Taylor and Richardton fire departments.
The Stark County Sheriff’s Department responded with three deputies and contacted Temple, said Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy.
“My detective is out of town so we called the BCI and the fire marshal — we wanted to make sure we covered all of our bases,” Tuhy said. “Normally we have one or two, but we just hired a new deputy — he is in training so he was out there, too. We had the deputies out for traffic control.”
Temple said he is unsure if he will be able to get into the building to conduct a thorough investigation as it is dependent on the structure’s stability.
Officials are interviewing the building’s owners, past renters and others in an effort to figure out what may have caused the fire, Temple said.
This isn’t the building’s first fire.
Its basement caught fire last summer, said Pat Mischel, a lifelong Richardton resident.
To some, the burning buildings housed many memories.
Mischel’s grandfather operated a business adjacent to the burn site and he fondly recalls childhood times.
“It’s kind of like my ole stompin’ grounds for me there,” Mischel said. “I played a lot of cowboys and Indians between the alleys down here.”
Mischel said his wife said their home just down the street had smoke and a stench from the blaze.
The former Elkhorn Bar has stood as a landmark in Richardton, Mischel said.
“I just can’t believe the smoke,” said Richardton resident Sheila Nichols. “It’s tragic that the building (the Elkhorn Bar) went up in flames. It’s the biggest thing in Richardton since I’ve lived here.”
Thick black, billowing smoke was visible from Interstate 94.
“It was quite a sight — all the smoke and flames,” said Richardton resident John Wright.
Press reporter Lisa Miller contributed to this story.