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Archive for Friday, June 30, 2000

Fire guts carousel shop

June 30, 2000

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— An early morning fire Thursday destroyed the shop where wood carver Bruce White makes his carousel horses and killed about a half-dozen reptiles in an adjacent tourist attraction.

The shop was used mostly for manufacturing the molds used to make the carousel horses displayed in Applebee's restaurants, said John Ploger, a Kinsley real estate agent who works with White on his carnival foundation.

Most of the equipment is salvageable, Ploger said.

The shop was in a separate building from that housing the Carnival Heritage Museum, where much of the history of carnivals is preserved in this western Kansas town.

Kinsley is home to one of only seven remaining German-made, double-decker Heyn carousels. The historic carousel was not in the building that burned.

The carousel had been stripped of its animals by a previous owner, and for months White has been recreating horses of famous American and European carousel companies to fill the two decks of the German carousel.

White is about a third finished with the project, and the fire is not expected to slow the work, Ploger said.

White was out of town at the time of the fire and could not be reached for comment.

The National Foundation for Carnival Heritage is based in Kinsley, a town of 1,700 rich with carnival history.

At least three major carnivals operated out of Kinsley from 1901 through the 1970s, and many residents either worked for one of the carnivals or are descendants of those who did.

"It is important because it is one of the things that brings tours in," said Maxine Blank, curator for the Edwards County Historical Museum.

She said that a tour group of 80 people had been scheduled to see the carousel shop on the day of the fire.

About a fourth of the animals at Ralph's Reptile Refuge, housed in the same building, died from smoke, Ploger said. The refuge had about 25 animals at the time of the fire, he said.

The reptiles were a popular attraction for children. A decision has yet to be made whether the reptile refuge will be reopened, he said.

A preliminary investigation indicated the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction, said Kinsley Fire Chief Buford Brodbeck. The fire started in the carousel shop, gutting the central portion and causing extensive smoke damage throughout.

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