Fire Damages Downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming Business

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- A fire that broke out in a bakery forced evacuation of an entire downtown block, poured thick smoke through the city for more than 14 hours and damaged the building where famed Western gunslinger Tom Horn allegedly confessed to murder.

``There's been times we thought we had the fire mostly contained only to find that it ran through some voids and spaces and through some false ceilings and moved ahead of us,'' Fire Chief Scot Alvord told KGWN-TV. ``It's kind of been a cat-and-mouse game all night.''

The north side of the 200 block of West 16th Street in the historic city core was evacuated after the blaze was reported in Mary's Bake Shoppe late Monday.

The first call came in at 10:36 p.m. No injuries were reported from the fire, the cause of which wasn't known.

Crews from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Laramie and Fort Collins, Colo., were part of a throng of more than 100 firefighters who battled the blaze.

The fire appeared to be under control by dawn, but by midmorning, huge plumes of smoke continued to pour from the scene.

Power outages occurred when main feeder lines behind the three-and four-story buildings were damaged.

Alvord estimated it would be late afternoon or early evening before the fire would be brought under control.

The Pioneer and Idelman hotels were evacuated shortly after the fire started and about 30 guests sent to a makeshift shelter at the Storey Gym.

Fire Investigator Mike Christmann said it appeared that all of the businesses in the south-facing block were damaged, either directly by the fire or from smoke and water.

More than 14 hours after the fire started, flames could still be seen licking out from third-story windows of Wyoming Home, a retail business in the center of the block.

``This is an old, heavy-timber, masonry construction building,'' Christmann said.

Because of hidden spaces, crews had difficulty containing the blaze, which he said appeared to have started in the basement of the bakery and quickly spread upward and into adjoining buildings.

``They were able to hold it for quite a few hours in the Mary's Bakery area,'' Christmann said. ``It finally broke through and got into the abandoned hotel above Wyoming Home.''

``We're trying to hit it as it breaks out in areas through these voids,'' he said. ``We have had some buildings collapse.''

One of the damaged buildings houses the room where Horn allegedly confessed to the 1901 killing of 14-year-old Willie Nickell. Horn was later hanged, the last person in Wyoming to be executed that way.

Among the other damaged structures were an art gallery and the Hynds Building, which sits on the corner of Capitol and 16th.

Smoke also damaged businesses across the 16-foot alley north of the block, where the Pioneer Hotel is located.

The area was cordoned off as crews poured water throughout the day into the structures. Debris, including pieces of charred wood, lay in the street.

Many of the elaborate brick-and-concrete facades, typical of the late-1800s when the structures were built, were blackened.