When national news coverage put the small town of Dubois, Wyoming on the country’s radar for the devastating town fire December 30, 2014, media outlets from NBC News to National Public Radio (NPR) shared dramatic images of firefighters in 30-below weather, stout icicles, and smoking ruins. The fire began in the Main Street Mart and spread to four buildings. Miraculously, no one was injured, but a dozen small businesses were lost.
According to the New Year’s reports, it was as if the town of Dubois was burnt from the map forever.
It has taken the resilient population of almost one thousand residents eight months, but Dubois has truly proven itself to be “mountain strong.” Mayor Twila Blakeman said, apart from the visual hole in the middle of Main Street, “[the fire] shows exactly how our community pulls together when something happens.”
In the aftermath of the fire, there were concerns that a few local livelihoods were in jeopardy; two fundraising campaigns were conducted for fire relief. The Needs of Dubois (NOD), a non-profit volunteer group, collected and distributed funds (almost $90,000) toward fire victims’ bills: mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and food. The City of Dubois hosted “Give Your Heart to Dubois” on Valentine’s Day, which raised $80,000 toward offsetting content and property losses.
Owners of the fire-stormed buildings, Jeff and Susan Sussman, have begun design plans for a rebuild. Construction will likely begin in Spring of 2016. “I am confident the rebuild will be a beautiful and beneficial addition to our unique community,” shares Mayor Blakeman.
“August is peak tourist season and our town is bustling. Our numbers are up. It is a good year for visitors and traffic, despite our winter tragedy,” explains Mallorie Mevissen, director at the Dubois Chamber of Commerce. “Several businesses affected by the fire have relocated and re-opened, and are thriving, like Marlow’s Fly Shop. And new businesses have opened. This has been a great summer. We are looking forward to the next stage of rebuild, and taking time to attract businesses, jobs and visitors to our wonderful town.”
“In the grand scheme of things, [business] is going great,” reports Bradley Marlow of Marlow’s Fly Shop, relocated to the corner of Ramshorn and 1st Street, who re-opened in June. “I’ve noticed more business this summer than last summer. Also noticing a lot more bookings, and people are doing double-bookings. Like, the same family will take a couple of trips and stay longer in town. The hotels have ‘No Vacancy’ signs. We’re doing great.”
Back in January from the still-smoldering ashes of the New Year, Mayor Blakeman told National Public Radio’s ‘Here & Now’ program that Dubois’ businesses will bounce back and “we will be able to handle everybody that comes to Dubois from winter snowmobiling to summer camping.”
The town of Dubois holds steadfast and true to those words.
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