STORY — Sheridan County emergency responders were called to a structure fire at the Chuckwagon convenience store and gas station in Story early Thursday morning. In the course of battling the blaze, firefighters were confronted with record setting temperatures of 28 degrees below zero.
The Story Volunteer Fire Department spearheaded fire suppression efforts with the aid of Goose Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Sheridan Fire-Rescue. Deputies from the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office provided logistical support along with Rocky Mountain Ambulance.
SFR Chief Terry Lenhart said his on-duty crew was called out at 2:51 a.m.
“The report while they were en route was that it was fully involved and the roof had collapsed in. That’s what they did find,” Lenhart said. The firefighters successfully extinguished the blaze and prevented it from spreading to other structures, but not without facing significant adversity from the night’s subzero temperatures.
“When it’s cold and you’re operating with water, there’s a lot of factors,” Lenhart explained. “One is you have to keep it flowing all the time.”
Lenhart said shutting off the hoses and laying them on the ground would cause the hose to freeze solid and become unmovable by fire crews.
“You would just have a long stick that weighs hundreds of pounds,” he said, indicating that was just the beginning of the crew’s concerns.
“Anywhere that water sprays, it’s a slipping hazard, and it freezes on portions of the building and makes it collapse,” Lenhart continued.
He also indicated special considerations had to be taken for the personnel at work to avoid slipping hazards due to frozen water on the ground and crews had to rotate people through a warming area to prevent weather exposure injuries.
SFR crews were released from the scene at 5:36 a.m., and GVVFD left the scene at approximately 6 a.m.
As of 8 a.m., Story Fire volunteers were still monitoring the site to ensure it did not reignite.
“When a building like that is fully involved, it’s like a big campfire,” Lenhart said. “There are coals underneath that continue to burn, and you have to get to them and put them out so the investigators can get in.”
Lenhart said the investigation will be handled by the Wyoming State Fire Marshal.
“It will be difficult for investigators because there’s a layer of ice over the top,” he said.
GVVFD Chief Bob Williams classified the building as a total loss.
“It’s a big loss for the Story community to lose the store there,” Lenhart said.