Historical Details

Fire: Northwestern Depot Destroyed by Fire

Courtesy of The Lusk Standard, 04/23/1923


The Lusk Standard, April 18, 1923

About 5 o’clock Thursday morning a blaze started in the east end of the Northwestern depot which wiped that structure out, with the exception of part of the living quarters on the west end of the building, which was occupied by the family of former Agent S.A. Ballengee.

It is not known how the fire originated and it seems the first one to discover the depot to be in danger was Harold Ballangee, who was awakened by smoke in his room. While Night Operator Singleton was on the job, he failed to notice any sign of a blaze in the station house.

The volunteer fire department turned out en masse and did the best they could with the equipment at hand, but too much of a head start had been gained by the hungry flames and it was soon out of control.

Three cars, which were on the sidetrack just south of the depot, caught fire, but the blaze was soon extinguished. One car contained twenty-six barrels of gas and was quickly unloaded by a volunteer party. The switch engine was backed in and hauled them out before much damage
was done.

Right at this time when the freight and passenger business is so heavy the burning of the depot is a catastrophe to Lusk. Assistant Division Superintendent Golden, who is here for the time being, says it puts the Northwestern in a very bad position for the present. All the office records, freight bills, expense bills, ticket stock and office equipment has gone up in flames, and it will take some time to get organized again.

Mr. Golden said a string of box cars would be placed on the south sidetracks to help take care of the business during the emergency. The remaining part of the old structure, on the west end will be utilized as a telegraph and ticket office until better quarters can be arranged temporarily.

A new depot is now inevitable for Lusk, and Mr. Golden says the structure the Northwestern will build will be a credit to the town.

Mr. S.A. Ballengee is quite a heavy loser through the big fire, Highly prized trophies of his many hunting expeditions decorated the walls of the ticket office and all went up in smoke. His two large elk heads, which never failed to attract the attention of those doing business at the office window, also a mountain sheep head and elegant deer head, all of which Mr. Ballengee took great pride in, are now mere remembrances. He also lost a fine gun which he secured from “Sandy” Griswold, of the Omaha World-Herald. This gun as specially made for Mr.Griswold and through their great friendship Mr. Ballengee was enabled to secure the valuable firearm.

Mrs. Ballengee and children, Harold and Blanche, together with Miss Rumlee and Operator Fagan, were asleep in their apartments when the fire started but were able to get out without mishap. Rev. Shoemaker took the unfortunates to his home where they were cared for temporarily.

Mr. Ballengee is in Lander and undoubtedly is not aware of the big blaze. This fire clearly demonstrated the unpreparedness of the city of Lusk to cope with the fires of the future. The short range covered by the hose which leaked badly in several places in convincing evidence that
Lusk is not keeping pace with her growth.

While the volunteer fire fighters deserve much credit for their heroic efforts in trying to extinguish the blaze it is proven beyond a doubt that we must have some one at the head of the fire fighting brigade to take charge of situations of this character, keep the fire fighting apparatus in shape and look after the fire protection of the city in general. It has come to a point where the city can well afford to keep a man on the job continually, and with the assistance of a modern auto fire truck Lusk would be well equipped for a short time, at least.

Let the Chamber of Commerce get busy on this vital question and bring forth results as soon as possible.

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