Steamboat Springs Flames from a boiler, steamed up for rolling grain Friday morning at the historic Yampa Valley M&E mill south of town, spread rapidly to destroy the $50,000 main building and nearby office as countless Steamboat residents drove out to watch the impressive blaze.
Mill operator Don Foster had fired the boiler, in the basement in the northwest corner of the brick portion of the building, and within a few minutes uncontrollable flames started their path of destruction, claiming the building and office a few hours later.
Owner Dillon Rich, the only other occupant of the building, said he rushed to the boiler room but found no chance to get near fire extinguishers as the fire was already shooting hot flames upward, soon to ignite the frame-constructed portion of the building.
Rich and others were able to save valuables from the tiny white office, which stood in front of the building for hours until it too fell heir to wind-swept fire.
Volunteer firemen from Steamboat, who rushed to the scene of the blaze after Rich had called, had to draw water from the Yampa River in a vain attempt to fight the raging fire. However, cross-currents of wind from the north and south quickly demolished the building, machinery and merchandise it stored.
The estimated value of grain stored was set at $16,000 by owner Rich, with 350,000 pounds of oats, barley and wheat in the mill ravaged by the fire. Rich carried $21,000 worth of insurance on the building and machinery insurance for the merchandise.
During the blaze, the chimney of the main building toppled, and, not long after, the entire front brick wall crumbled to the ground below, leaving as smoldering remnants of the fire two brick turrets on the left and right of the chimney of the office building, centered in front of the mill. A small 8 foot-by-5 foot compartment alongside the office and rectangular storage space to the south survived the fire.
Old-timers are undoubtedly reminded of the fires that destroyed the Cabin Hotel in 1939 and the old Steamboat Pilot building in 1909.
Ten already in race for election to Town Board
A hot race is brewing for the six trustee places on the Town Board of Steamboat Springs that will be up for election on April 1. With the closing date for filing nominating petitions but a day away, 10 candidates already are definitely in the race and more may file before the deadline tomorrow (Friday).
Pearl Gates pleads not guilty to murder case
Pearl Gates, 50, pleaded not guilty before District Court Judge Addison Gooding on Wednesday morning to charges of "willfully and maliciously" murdering John H. Austin a week ago Wednesday in Oak Creek.
Miss Gates, who claimed she had struck at Austin with a hammer after he threatened to kill her, was present in the courtroom, and her face was marked by cuts. She had claimed shortly after the death of Austin that she struck him after he had hit her.
Austin died last Thursday as a result of 30 blows without making a statement, according to a physician's report.
Miss Gates has a long record of arrests. Austin was a chiropractor in Denver before his conviction Aug. 5, 1995, of performing an illegal operation. He received a one-to-two year sentence on the conviction, District Attorney Worth Shrimpton said.
At the inquest held for John H. Austin, a coroner's jury of six agreed the man came to his death as a result of multiple blows on the head from a hammer wielded by one Pearl L. Gates.
Austin was employed as a barber at Oak Creek some four months prior to his death. Miss Gates later joined him there. Sheriff's officers said the killing resulted after the two had been on a drinking spree last Wednesday night. Austin died Thursday morning at the Oak Creek hospital where he was taken. After the assault, Miss Gates ran into the street shouting for help. Passers-by contacted police.