Dubois Rising

demolition_with_boysAt left, two young lads watched with interest as the last building damaged in the devastating December 30 fire comes down. I asked their names at the time, but unfortunately forgot them before I sat down to write this.

Dubois fire
Downtown Dubois on 12/31/14. Photo credit: Alan Rogers/Casper Star-Tribune

The fire, widely reported in the national media, destroyed a half block of historic buildings on the main street. (You can see some more dramatic pictures at Dubois fire.)

The fire was caused by overheating of wooden walls too close to a chimney. Subzero temperatures caused the water lines in the fire hoses to freeze up as volunteer firefighters battled the flames in the wee hours.

Community response was, predictably, immediate and robust, reflecting the strong feelings that residents, former residents, and longtime repeat visitors have for the Dubois community.

A crowd-sourced relief fund raised nearly $12,000 for affected business owners over six months. Another fund coordinated by the local charity Needs of Dubois and St. Thomas Episcopal Church raised about $88,000.

Contributions at the annual Swedish Smorgasbord event in June and other sources raised money for a new fire engine with hoses that will not freeze overnight in Dubois’ high-mountain winter temperatures.

DuboisRisingThe theme of the Independence Day parade was “Dubois Rising” (see the float with that motto in the image at right). Nobody needed to be told what that was about.

Meanwhile, the demolition proceeded. The new empty lot offers residents a startling view, straight through from the hardware store and its parking lot to the world’s most unique bar (the Rustic Pine Tavern) — or vice versa. We’re used to seeing timber storefronts and a board sidewalk.

JeffsBareLotWhat’s going to happen here? We’re eager to find out.

“How could I not rebuild?” said the property owner Jeff Sussman in the local newspaper, not long after the fire. Now that the insurance reports are submitted, architects’ plans are under consideration.

A New York commercial real estate broker, Jeff and his wife Susan also own and manage the Diamond D ranch here. Jeff and Susan are anything but absentee landlords. You often see them in the Rustic when they’re in town, and they celebrated Jeff’s recent birthday with an open bar.

When I spotted Jeff in town not long ago, I mentioned that heart-warming statement in the Frontier, which was a beacon of hope at a devastating time for a town whose economy relies heavily on tourism and therefore on the face it presents to those passing through.

“I meant it,” he replied. “We’ve lived here for years. I wasn’t just going to take the insurance buyout. This town means a great deal to us.”

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.
© Lois Wingerson 2015

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Author: LivingDubois

I am a retired science journalist, devoted to enjoying and recording the many pleasures of life in the Wyoming's Upper Wind River Valley.

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