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Faulty porch light blamed for Lander fire

Jul 3, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Nearly 70 firefighters responded to the June 28 blaze, consuming 675,000 gallons of water from the city's municipal water supply.

Lander city fire administrator Nick Hudson said an electrical malfunction on one of the Lander Community Center's front porch lights is to blame for the June 28 fire that destroyed the landmark structure.

Hudson on Monday shared more facts about the incident, including the manpower that went into fighting the fire that destroyed one of the county seat's most familiar buildings.

The quantity of resources used to fight the fire was "pretty staggering," Hudson said.

Six battalions countywide responded to the fire, which was reported to emergency personnel at 5:30 p.m. Thursday June 28. All sections of law enforcement as well as emergency medical services also were called to the site.

"We were just shy of 70 volunteer firefighters on scene," he said.

The firefighting efforts involved 25 marked apparatus, including command and support vehicles.

One of the largest numbers Hudson cited was the 675,000 gallons of city water used to combat the fire before crews switched to pumping water from a ditch about two hours into fighting flames.

From the beginning, Hudson said, firefighters' goal was to limit the fire to the front of the decades-old log structure in order to salvage the rear portion. He said fire crews responded to the incident differently because it was an unoccupied building.

"We risk a lot to save a lot," he said.

Two firefighters stood about 10 feet inside the building to keep flames from spreading to the back end.

Hudson said firefighters inside were fairly successful until they noticed the ceiling's trusses were starting to give way.

He said letting the structure burn to the ground was not an option.

"Sometimes letting it burn is more dangerous than not," he said.

One concern with letting it burn was the fire spreading to the golf course grounds or nearby trees as winds picked up.

He noted a dog inside that was thought to have perished in the flames and later emerged alive because of ceiling insulation that fell on top of the table the dog was sleeping under, providing protection.

The damage cost estimate is expected to be determined after an insurance adjuster examines the burned-out structure next week, Hudson said.

The fire department boss expressed gratitude for the volunteer firefighters who responded to the scene, saying the little pay they received was "free water and a few slices of pizza."

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