Wyoming City Plans Downtown Recovery After Fire

By ERIC BLOM, The Riverton Ranger | February 3, 2015

A fire devastated Dubois’s downtown and left half a dozen business owners picking through rubble just as 2014 came to a close.

In the weeks since, the Wyoming mountain community has launched efforts to rebuild.

“I would say people are still hopeful. It is definitively an impact to our economy, but we are still hoping for people to come through and visit our town,” Dubois Chamber of Commerce director Mallerie Mevissen said. “We still have plenty of retail shops for people to come visit, and we still have all of our recreational activities. It didn’t impact the hiking and camping and fishing and all that.”

One way people are pitching in is through monetary donations.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church started collecting donations through its Outreach Fund to reimburse people for property they lost in the blaze, parish administrator Mary Ellen Honsaker said.

She began distributing flyers asking for donations and applications to receive assistance on Jan. 14.

“We’ve had phone calls from all over the country, and some got calls from people outside the country,” Honsaker said. “This morning I got a call from people who hunt here, and they heard we were doing fundraising and asked if they could give money.”

The Needs of Dubois organization was the first to collect money for the fire’s victims. Fund raised help cover bills for affected businesses, Honsaker said, and the group raised about $20,000. Needs of Dubois’s bylaws prevent it from donating to individuals, however, so St. Thomas stepped in to coordinate the next step, Honsaker told The Riverton Ranger.

A committee also is organizing a benefit for Feb. 14 at the Headwaters Arts and Conference Center. Called “Give Your Heart to Dubois,” the event is to feature a dinner, live music, an art auction and a pie auction.

Proceeds will go to the St. Thomas Outreach Fund.

The economic impacts of the fire on the town of 1,000 remain to be seen.

“I think there’s a lot of optimism here. I don’t think we’re feeling a huge impact,” Honsaker said. “In fact, with people around the country hearing about us, I suspect tourists coming through will be very generous or at least more tourists coming through because they heard about us.”

One company, Wind River Land and Building Co., owned all of the structures that burned, and many in town are waiting to see what it will do with the space on the town’s main route, Ramshorn Street.

“The owner of the buildings does plan on rebuilding, so that’s giving people some hope,” Mevissen said.

The owners officially have had no comment yet, said Wind River Land and Building property manager Reg Phillips, but they intend to issue a statement soon on their plans.

The impact on individual lives already is being felt. Half a dozen businesses rented space in the now-burned structures.

Kayla Schumann knows firsthand what it felt like to lose her business in the blaze, but others had it worse, she said.

She and her boyfriend rented a booth in the Main Street Mart flea market selling vintage and antique furniture, but they both have full-time jobs elsewhere.

“I felt more bad for the people who did rely on the market for their primary source of income, and I felt bad for all the rare and antique things that are now lost to history,” Schumann said.

She has received offers of help from many corners, and the experience has benefited her in some ways.

“I’m relatively new to the area, so to be able to be helped in such a warm way is really, really nice and assuring, even though it’s kind of a small town and I don’t know a lot of the people,” Schumann said.

She at least would like to rent another booth if a similar market is built, but Schumann also continues to sell items online.

Many are thankful the devastation was not worse.

“Both the buildings next to the fire were up and open the next day,” Honsaker said. “The firemen did an incredible job saving surrounding buildings from damage.”

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.