Saturday, March 07, 2009

Whitehall blast and fire, and Bozeman Blast two days after



Good God.

Yesterday, an explosion and fire in Whitehall, about forty miles from Bozeman, destroyed at least two businesses housed in historic downtown buildings. From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle today:
“It was an explosion,” said Gabi Hall, co-owner of the Legion Grill “It knocked me right off my chair.”
After Hall heard the loud “boom,” around 11 a.m., she and others evacuated the restaurant, which had just started filling up with a lunchtime crowd.
After the initial explosion, Legion Grill co-owner Jane Bowman ran back into the business to collect some personal belongings. Within minutes, visibility inside the restaurant was totally obscured, she said.
“That smoke was pretty intense, I’ll tell you,” Bowman said.
“There were flames going, I don’t know, 100 to 200 feet in the air,” said Legion employee Catherine Ball. “It was like a movie, a scary movie.”
Whitehall Fire Chief Rick Strauss said, “We escalated right away and asked for help immediately.”
Nearly 35 firefighters from Whitehall, Butte-Silver Bow, Willow Creek and Twin Bridges battled the flames.
By Friday afternoon, it was still unclear where or what had started the blaze that destroyed the Legion Grill, the Mint Bar, Cottage Floral, DD Tax Service and Steve Warmoth Enterprises.
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Two explosions and fires destroyed businesses and structures in two Montana communities in two days. There was an earthquake registering 4.5 on the Richter scale yesterday morning at 4:30 a.m., with its epicenter about 12 miles south of Whitehall. An aftershock registering 3.5 came a half hour later, with smaller aftershocks to four hours after the original quake. It's unknown yet whether that had any effect on the subsequent Whitehall explosion and fire, but it was just 12 miles south.

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