Written by John Plestina
Firefighters remained on the scene Tuesday as the ruins of what had been the two Gysler Furniture and Appliance buildings in downtown Wolf Point continued to smolder. The rapidly-moving fire on Monday, March 10, leveled both buildings.
There were no injuries reported in the adjoining Gysler’s buildings at 125 Anaconda St. The fire spread quickly and fully engulfed Gysler’s west building at the corner of Anaconda and Second Avenue South by the time the Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department arrived minutes after an employee of nearby Bryan’s clothing store called 911 and reported the fire at about 2:30 p.m.
Four other fire departments assisted the WPVFD with trucks and personnel. Poplar brought a pumper truck to the scene.
Twenty-four firefighters from other communities assisted. Departments providing aid included Poplar, seven firefighters; Culbertson, seven; Circle, five; and Glasgow/Long Run, five.
“Every one of these departments brought trucks,” WPVFD Chief Shawn Eggar said. “We had five of our apparatus there.”
He expressed his gratitude to all of the fire departments that assisted.
“We also had a number of city crews,” Eggar said, referring to assistance by Wolf Point Police Department and the City of Wolf Point Public Works Department.
The Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice and the Roosevelt County Sheriff Office also assisted with traffic and crowd control.
The fire damaged three power poles and turned a power line bright red causing a power outage in the immediate area of the fire.
“We estimate about 200 customers, mostly businesses, were impacted by the fire,” Montana-Dakota Utilities spokesperson Laura Laueder said.
The outage was on the south side of Anaconda Street and Main Street and for a few blocks to the south.
“The fire burned one of our lines and damaged two others. We shut off a circuit in a substation to make it safer for the firefighters and to make it safer for our line crews. That actually impacted more customers,” she said.
Initially, about 200 MDU customers were impacted for about an hour and 15 minutes, Laueder said. For about 30 customers, power was out for about six hours.
An MDU crew replaced the burnt power line.
“Three poles were damaged. None of them came down. They will be replaced at some point later,” Laueder said.
Authorities have not determined a cause of the fire. The investigation could take weeks.
Eggar said the Montana State Fire Marshal’s Office will investigate the fire.
He said arson is unlikely.
“I can’t say for sure, but it was during the work week. It’s not likely,” Eggar said.
He said the fire is expected to smolder for a few days.
Anaconda Street was reopened to traffic Tuesday morning.
Eggar said the neighboring Swap Shop and Southside Jetwash behind it were not damaged by the fire. The Swap Shop sustained smoke and water damage, Eggar said. There was a fire wall between the Swap Shop and Gysler’s east building.
Paul Gysler, a Wolf Point firefighter who fought the blaze, and the son of the owner of Gysler Furniture, posted on Facebook thanking the community and the fire departments from outside Wolf Point that helped for their support.
“We have a wonderful, supportive community,” he wrote.
His grandfather, Kermit Gysler, started Gysler Hardware in the west building in 1965. The Gyslers moved the furniture and appliance business to the site over a decade ago.
The two 84-year-old Gysler’s buildings were built in 1930. The Gysler family owned the west building and leased the east building, according to landownership records.
It had previously housed several retailers, an automotive dealership and a funeral home.
Smoke was reportedly visible from as far away as Poplar, Fort Peck and Glasgow.
Eggar said the WPVFD is low on personnel and recruitment of additional firefighters is necessary to maintain fire safety.