CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Huge flames ripped through historic buildings in the picturesque western Wyoming town of Dubois as firefighters contended with subzero temperatures that froze their hoses and other equipment.
Four buildings containing more than a dozen businesses were destroyed, but Mayor Twila Blakeman credited firefighters with keeping the flames from spreading even further.
"It was horrendous for them. They were, as usual, heroes," Blakeman said.
One destroyed building contained about 10 businesses. Also burned were a fly fishing shop and a gallery in the town of 1,000 that's tucked between the Wind River and Absaroka mountain ranges.
Christmas lights glowed cheerfully on businesses against a dramatic backdrop of flames leaping dozens of feet into the sky after the fire was reported around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Firefighters had to contend not only with the fire's brutal heat but nail-biting cold: Temperatures overnight got down to 25 below zero.
Residents of the town banded together to help business owners salvage what they could from shops in the flames' path, according to witness Kate Wiltshire, 45.
Wiltshire, the co-owner of the Turtle Ranch outside of town, said it was amazing to watch the town work together and the firefighters cope with the harsh conditions.
"It was a struggle for firefighters because their equipment was freezing up," Wiltshire said.
Firefighters became covered in ice as the water from their hoses froze, she said.
They had the flames under control by 5 a.m. Wednesday. The cause remained unknown and damage was still being assessed as firefighters mopped up the smoldering ruins Wednesday, Blakeman said.
Dubois is midway between Riverton and Jackson Hole in western Wyoming. The town is known as a gateway to western Wyoming's scenic wildernesses including Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.