Historic Harlowton theater gutted by fire

2012-08-16T14:23:00Z 2012-08-16T22:50:05Z Historic Harlowton theater gutted by fireBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

For the second time in 15 years, fire has gutted the historic State Theater in downtown Harlowton.

Dean Thompson, chief of the Wheatland Volunteer Fire Department in Harlowton, said the fire was reported at the abandoned building at about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

When fire crews arrived, flames were racing through the building and firefighters had to focus on keeping it from spreading to neighboring buildings.

"We were out there all night last night and we probably had a controlled situation at about 7 (in the evening)," he said. "We protected the surrounding buildings, to keep it from spreading to them."

In the process, they used about 250,000 gallons of water to battle the flames.

While the concrete building's walls are still standing, the fire gutted most or all of what remained inside, Thompson said.

Built in the 1930s, fire tore through the building for the first time in the late 1990s and the theater hasn't reopened since.

"It's really too bad," Thompson said. "It really was a neat old building."

About 25 firefighters from Harlowton, Two Dot and Judith Gap responded to the fire.

A state fire investigator and Sheriff James Rosenberg are assisting with the investigation into the fire's cause.

Thompson declined to discuss possible causes or if it was accidental, saying that the investigation was still ongoing.

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