Friday, November 3, 1967

Recreational Hall Housing Public Library, Trail-A-Sled Plant Burns at Crosby
Two Firemen In Hospital After Fire

Story from The Brainerd Daily Dispatch

CROSBY – Fire, which destroyed the Crosby recreation hall last night, wiped out the Trail-A-Sled assembly plant, village library and vehicle storage area and the community meeting rooms.

The building was completely burned out with only the shell of the hall partially standing today and firemen remaining at the scene. The building was still smoldering this morning with occasional puffs of flame erupting.

Two Crosby firemen were taken to the Cuyuna Range District hospital during the night. Pete Midthun was hit by a fire hose and fell. His is in good condition this morning, hospital officials said. Gene Foote was taken to the hospital about 3:30 A.M. today when he complained of severe chest pains. He is under observation, authorities said.

Lost in the fire was all of Trail-A-Sled’s manufacturing equipment along with an unestimated number of completed sleds, 500 to 600 new motors and other parts. The recreation hall housed the firm’s main assembly plant. Trail-A-Sled also has a rubber track manufacturing site at another Crosby location and a fiberglass plant in Ironton.

Village officials listed the following vehicles lost in the garage area of the building: two dump trucks, a tractor and loader, a recently-purchased snow blower, a truck belonging to the county, large garbage truck, scraper and 15 hp. electric motor.

A large road grader was saved from the building, and about 40 completed snowmobiles parked along side of the building were pulled to safety, it was reported.

The Crosby public library was completely gutted. According to Mrs. John Vranish, librarian, the library cataloged about 16,000 books and several sets of encyclopedias.Photo Two

Chamber of Commerce officials report the loss of an estimated $500 in recently-purchased Christmas street decorations, and civic and fraternal groups, which use the building for meetings, the loss of screen projector, two pianos, awards and citations, flags, utensils and other furnishings.

The fire was discovered shortly before 11:00 P.M. last night by Ben Bellefeuille, an office employee of Trail-A-Sled. Bellefeuille said he had just left the building after checking the doors. Suddenly there was an explosion and the building was in flames. Bellefeuille notified the Crosby Fire department by two-way radio from his car.

Bellefeuille said today that the smoke was so thick that he was unable to re-enter the building, and the entire building was in flames within a short time. Small explosions continued to occur for several hours as firemen from Crosby, Ironton and Deerwood, assisted by police and auxiliary police, continued to battle the blaze.

Aided by a wind from the northwest, firemen were able to keep the fire from spreading to houses across the street from the building or to the adjacent Crosby armory. However, some roof and window damage was reported at the armory.

Crosby Fire Chief Walt Heineman said there is no estimate of total damage as yet or that the cause of the fire has not been determined. Fire inspectors were at the scene this morning.

Photo ThreeTrail-A-Sled began manufacturing of snowmobiles in 1963, and last year acquired 17,000 square feet in the Crosby recreation hall. According to Glen Gutzman, owner of the firm along with Eugene and Richard Harrison, improvements costing approximately $25,000, were made at the site.

The firm was talking expansion again, and had been tentatively considered requesting additional space in the recreation building or acquiring the former Inland Steel Co. property in Crosby recently given to the village when the mining firm ceased operations.

Company officials said about 115 persons were employed at the plant at the present with production underway on three snowmobile models with five choices in engine operation. The firm expected to surpass its last year’s production of 5,000 machines by a considerable margin this year.

Officials of the firm said it is too soon to know any plans for rebuilding, but that it is hoped limited production can be started again within two weeks.