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Fire Damages Several Businesses In Historic Deadwood

December 16, 1987

DEADWOOD, S.D. (AP) _ Fire consumed most of a downtown block in this historic Black Hills city, damaging or destroying 10 businesses, including a saloon that is a popular tourist attraction, authorities said today.

Most of the businesses were in one block-long Main Street building, said Mayor Tom Blair.

″There’s nothing left of it,″ he said.

″This is just awful. I’m just sick about it,″ said Susan Edwards, the state tourism director. ″Deadwood itself is a major historic attraction ... It’s something that’s not built overnight.″

The fire broke out shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, and officials sealed off downtown, said Cary Fries of KSQY, a radio station that was evacuated along with several other businesses. He estimated that flames were shooting 50 to 75 feet in the air.

A sheriff’s department spokeswoman said two firefighters were overcome by smoke and were treated at a Deadwood hospital. Stew Mehlhaff, a volunteer firefighter from Deadwood, said one additional fireman received minor injuries when the collapse of a wall threw him against a wall across the street.

Blair said businesses destroyed or damaged included an import shop, realty office, art gallery, drug store, gift shop and F.L. Thorpe Co. jewelry store, all located in a building next to the No. 10 saloon.

″The age of the building and the construction in that period of time in the late 1880s didn’t deal a lot with fire stops and those safeguards,″ he said. ″Consequently the size of the building made it extremely difficult to get to the scene of the fire.″

He said officials had not been in the saloon to assess damage, but ″the building is still intact.″

Deadwood, population 2,000, attracts tourists by cultivating its reputation as a frontier town where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down in 1876.

The region is also known for its gold, and crews from nearby Homestake Mining Co. assisted in the firefighting.

The cause of the fire was undetermined.

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