The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Bear Trap fire probe continues


Ralph Ansami/Daily Globe

THE BEAR Trap Inn in Saxon, Wis., is destroyed in an early Saturday morning fire. The Saxon Pub, to the left, was not damaged.


SAXON, Wis. - All Sunday, investigators sifted through the rubble of a fire that destroyed the Bear Trap Inn in Saxon Saturday around 3:20 a.m.

Two representatives of the state fire marshal's office arrived later Saturday and began to search through what was left of the tavern-restaurant building, which was a total loss.

Lisa Waldros, of Kimball, had worked the Friday night bartending shift at the tavern and her car was parked in front of the tavern as the fire raged.

She often cleaned up the business after it closed and she had not been heard from since the fire began. Her sister, T.C. Henning, operated the business.

The search of the building was scheduled to resume today at 7:30 a.m.

The kitchen had been closed to customers on Friday before midnight.

The cause of the fire was not immediately determined.

Waldros' family members remained at the scene Sunday as about many area fire department members assisted the fire marshal's office in going through the rubble piece by piece.

Waldros' husband, Dean Waldros, a retired Daily Globe pressman, said the family members appreciated all of support they had received through the difficult period as he watched the search on Sunday.

Fire departments from Saxon, Kimball, Upson, Montreal and Bad River responded to the early morning report that the building was on fire.

Brad Bigboy, of the Odanah area, indicated in a Facebook post that he was the first person at the scene.

"Terrible sight on the way home tonight. I noticed a lot of smoke in the sky by Saxon. I pulled into Saxon (from U.S. 2) to notice the Bear Trap completely engulfed in flames," Bigboy said.

He said he noticed a car parked in front of the tavern and hoped no one was in the building.

Bigboy said he called the Iron County Sheriff's Department and within minutes local fire departments were on the scene. The Saxon Fire Department is less than a block from the fire.

The fire produced heavy smoke that drifted more than a mile from the scene, across U.S. 2, fueled by a mild south wind.

The Saxon Pub, across the street, was not damaged. Saxon Pub owner Terri Hill offered food to the firefighters on a makeshift dining table on the sidewalk outside the Pub.

Saxon Fire Chief Stacy Ofstad said many other people, including the Bigboy family, had also brought food for the firefighters and searchers.

Around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, a tow truck had removed the vehicle from in front of the tavern. Sheriff Tony Furyk said it was considered evidence.

With the unknown cause of the blaze, the sheriff's department right away treated the fire as a crime scene, blocking off the area with yellow police tape.

Traffic on main street resumed Sunday morning.

The tavern's kitchen, an office and a living quarters were located on the south side of the building.

The efforts to sort through the charred building were complicated when the structure collapsed into the full basement on Saturday morning.

Local firefighters said the meticulous search could continue for days, based on information they received from the fire marshal's office, which was pleased with the support it received in both local manpower and equipment.

Some of the firefighters were at the scene for the entire weekend.

The tavern-restaurant was located along the Hurley to Gurney snowmobile trail and it had accommodated its usual good crowd of snowmobilers this winter.

It was also a popular gathering place for locals and featured summer hay rides, music, a Saturday night cash drawing and parties for a variety of occasions.

The building was more 100 years old and was a two-story structure at one time. The top floor that was removed contained apartments at one time.

It was formerly known as Smittty's Tap and in the 1950s and '60s, half the building housed Poor John's coffee shop and ice cream parlor and the other half featured the tavern.

Among other people, Bear Trap was operated by Ernie and Irene Smith, Jerry and Sue Brauer, Ken Norton, Dan Moncher and Paul Henning.


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