Wednesday, November 8, 1967
Rec Building, Trail-A-Sled Plant Lost in Blaze
Story from The Crosby-Ironton Courier
The village of Crosby and a mushrooming young industry today are struggling along the road to recovery following a fire last Thursday that completely wiped out the Trail-A-Sled, Inc., main assembly plant, the village library, recreation hall, the village garage and several pieces of street and maintenance equipment. Loss has been estimated at two and a half million dollars by Fire Marshall E.M. McCallister and Crosby Fire Chief Walt Heineman.
McCallister reported Monday following an investigation of the building that the fire definitely started near the west wall of the structure in the area occupied by Trail-A-Sled. "Though actual cause of the blaze has not been determined as yet," he said, "eye witnesses report that there was an explosion and we are now checking out all possibilities as to what could have started the fire."
Members of the Crosby fire department, auxiliary police and Trail-A-Sled employees maintained an around the clock vigil at the building though Monday and the street fronting the building is still blocked off to traffic.
The most severe blow from the blaze, unprecedented in the history of the community, was felt by Trail-A-Sled. The firm was just hitting its peak production stride and had anticipated producing about 8,000 Scorpion snowmobiles this season. According to company officials, only about one third of this goal had been reached up to last Thursday.
Commenting on recovery plans now underway, Glen Gutzman, president of the firm, informed that due to the availably of the Inland Steel company offices and buildings they should be back into production on a limited scale within two or three weeks. "We'll have trouble securing many small parts for assembly operations," he said, "but are hopeful these may be available from competitive firms, surplus inventories of our supplies and salvage." A stock pile of some 300 Scorpions stacked outside the building were saved.
Other operations of the company, the Rubber Drive plant, welding shop and fiberglass plant, are still in production. About 115 employees were affected by the Arena fire. In all departments the employment figure was in the neighborhood of 180 up to the time of the fire.
Biggest setback to the village was the loss of the library and maintenance equipment. According to Mrs. John Vranish, librarian, about 16,000 books and several sets of encyclopedias were lost. Machinery destroyed consisted of a front end loader tractor, 2 dump trucks, garbage truck, street roller, sewer machine, welder, air compressor, snow plow and blower. A road patrol was saved. Not stored in the building was a truck, street sweeper and flusher.
Also lost in the fire were Christmas street decorations, including new fixtures recently purchased by the Chamber of Commerce, Marathon Fishing contest equipment, as well as fixtures and equipment of other organizations who use the building for meetings.
The fire was discovered shortly before 11 p.m. last Thursday night by Ben Bellefeuille, an office employee of Trial-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 tow-way radio from his car.
Photo TwoBellefeuille 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, continue to battle the blaze. About 12:30 an earth tremoring explosion shook the area.
Aided by a wind form 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.
Two Crosby firemen were taken to the hospital during the fire. Pete Midthun sustained rib injuries when he was struck by a broken hose and Gene Foote was hospitalized when he complained of severe chest pains. Both have been released.
According to village and Trail-A-Sled officials, insurance coverages are adequate to start rebuilding and replacing equipment immediately. The village carried $200,000 insurance on the building plus insurance on the equipment and library. Exact losses of Trail-A-Sled have not been determined, but company officials have been notified that some emergency EDA funds will be available for rebuilding. Losses by civic, fraternal and service organizations were not covered by insurance.
The Trail-A-Sled firm has now set up its offices in the Inland Steel administration building and salvage operations are going forward at the burned out Arena building.
The firm recently purchased six acres of land across the street from the building from the Cuyuna Range Development Corp. and plans to erect a structure large enough to accommodate all production departments in the near future.
Because of the Fire ...
- Mayor William Matthews of Crosby and Earl Bedard, Ironton, have invited organizations and groups to use the meeting room facilities in the respective village halls. Arrangements may be made through the clerk's offices.
- The Ironton library is available to area residents. Hours are 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday
- The Crosby Cornballs will sponsor a benefit dance at the Crosby Armory Nov. 24 to help with the expense of new Christmas decorations for Main Street.
- Teamster Union employees had a special meeting Monday to help get the firm back to operations as soon as possible
- Those having books they may wish to donate to start a new library are asked to call Clifford Karle, village clerk.
- Trail-A-Sled employees are asked to call 546-5126 and give number of hours worked as all records were destroyed.
- Food stamps will be distributed at Murphy's cafe building in Ironton on Tuesdays.
- The Chamber of Commerce is hurrying to secure new Christmas decorations for Main street.
- Village street department is storing equipment at Zontelli Brothers shops, North Lakeshore, and in the Armory.
- The Civil Defense headquarters have been moved to the Inland Steel building.
- The Crosby village council held a special meeting with equipment salesmen last night to purchase replacement equipment.
Mayor Says Thanks
Gratified by cooperation of surrounding communities and individuals as well as offers of assistance following last Thursday night's fire tragedy, Mayor William Matthews and Chief Walt Heineman, expressed their profound thanks and appreciation to all for their thoughtfulness and consideration.
They extend a special thank you to the Ironton and Deerwood fire departments, the Crosby Bar, Spalding hotel and to volunteers who assisted during the fire.
Photo One Caption: WRONG WAY CORRIGAN? No, the fireman pictured above wasn't indifferent to the blaze behind him as it might appear. He had his hose trained on the west wall of the Armory building during the height of last Thursday night's Arena fire.
Photo Two Caption: MUTUAL AID ... Volunteer fireman from Ironton and Deerwood assisted the Crosby fire department battle the Arena blaze through the late evening and early morning hours last Thursday and Friday. Such assistance is the result of mutual aid agreements entered into by fire departments of surrounding towns.