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Caleco Foundry burns in Cody

 

A bronze monument of Hank Coe Sr. stands amid the charred rubble after a fire swept through the Caleco Foundry in Cody Wednesday, May 29. The statue is scheduled to be unveiled at a special ceremony at the Yellowstone Regional Airport on Friday. Photo by Mark Davis, Powell Tribune.

 

• Some art can be saved, but building and millions in equipment and molds a total loss

 

By Mark Davis
Powell Tribune
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

POWELL —  Early Wednesday morning Cody Volunteer Firefighters responded to calls of smoke and flames at the Caleco Foundry, just outside of the city on Reesy Road, near Wyo. Highway 120. 

Seventeen firefighters quickly arrived to find the business fully engulfed. 

“It’s pretty much a total loss,” said Park County Fire District 2 administrator Jerry Parker. 

The fire was reported at 1:25 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29. Crews cleared the scene at about about 6:30 a.m. and it’s unclear when the fire actually started. 

Parker said the fire was the biggest commercial building to burn since the Wild Horse [cafe] fire. 

The business was outside the city limits and the business had no working fire suppression infrastructure, said Park County Fire Marshal Sam Wilde, explaining the business was old enough to have been grandfathered in under new regulations and was not required to install a fire suppression system. 

Owner Bucky Hall received a phone call soon after the firefighters arrived. He rushed to the scene to see the business he has run on the site since 1991 (and co-owned since 1978) crumbling before him. 

The strong steel framed building largely withstood the fire, but Hall wasn’t worried about the building as much as the contents inside: millions of dollars worth of artwork and irreplaceable molds for bronze sculptures. 

Near the back bay doors stood a life-sized statue of Hank Coe Sr., which had just been finished and was waiting to be delivered and dedicated this coming Friday at the new Hank Coe Terminal at Yellowstone Regional Airport. 

The fire didn’t melt the statue, but it didn’t do it any favors either. 

“I’m trying to get permission from the fire marshal and my insurance company to get it out of there so we can get it fixed before the dedication,” Hall said. 

Ironically, Cody Fire Department Chief H.R. Coe, Hank’s son, was one of the first on the scene of the fire.

Hall was determined to get the life-sized monument of H.R.’s father and former Wyoming state senator on a forklift to be moved the day after the fire. 

Hours on the phone trying to get permission to enter the premises mostly failed and Bucky began to realize it wasn’t going to happen quickly. He spent the rest of the morning talking to business partners to shore up plans for severance pay prior to a private employee meeting in the soot-stained back lot. 

“I guess I’m retired now,” Hall said to start the meeting prior to asking members of the media to give them privacy. It was an emotional gathering, with some employees in shock, some sad, others angry and all suddenly looking for new jobs. 

 

Artwork losses 

Next to the Coe monument was a first in a new edition of statues of Hudson Bay trappers by Cody artist Vic Payne. Part of the monument was damaged, but it can be salvaged. 

What can’t be salvaged are the molds to make what was going to be a series of casts and several others in the edition. 

“If I had sold that edition out, which I would have over time, that would have been about $4 million, and it’s just one mold in the series,” said Payne, who said he lost 22 important molds in the fire. 

Of course, a significant portion of the money would have gone to Caleco — Payne’s was just one of many artists’ work that supported the nine employees at the business, which is one of just a few foundries in the region. 

Now, because of the fire, Payne’s new monument-sized statue is a one of a kind. 

Next to it, near a large bay door, was a sculpture of a covered wagon team making its way across the plains. The sculpture, titled “The Long Trail Home,” had already been sold and was ready for delivery. Now the $125,000 artwork will need to be fully reconditioned, from the hardwood base to the patina on the extremely detailed piece. 

Wednesday night, long after the fire was extinguished and everyone was gone, Cody Mayor Matt Hall (Bucky’s son) sat in his vehicle in front of the building guarding the facility because it was wide open to potential looters.

Bucky had several of his favorite sculptures produced at Caleco from over the years in his office, and there were many more waiting to be delivered. 

Mayor Hall stayed in his vehicle through the night watching over his father’s business; he used to work at the business as well. 

 

Replacing the foundry

Repairs on the sculptures that were damaged by the fire won’t be done by Bucky’s crew. 

“I’m done,” Hall said. “I can’t start over again.” 

Hall, 73, had wanted to retire and was offering the business and real estate for sale. 

Emma Scott, a fabricator from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who has worked at the foundry for the past three years, had previously tried to buy the business. However, due to the high value of real estate in the mountain town, the price was too high for the single mother, she said. Now she’s looking into starting her own small foundry in Cody, but only if she can find a building in her budget. 

The equipment needed to start a small foundry is relatively low, Bucky said, and can be purchased for about $40,000 to $50,000. Real estate is another issue. 

“My job was fun. It made me fall in love with the process to the point where I want to make it my career,” Scott said as she scratched Lucy, Bucky’s dog and a daily visitor at Caleco. 

 

Recovery

There were no injuries in the fire, but Bucky was clearly distraught despite constantly insisting he was OK. 

“I’m fine,” he said several times throughout the morning. 

Hall has had a rough patch recently. He lost his wife, Donnitta Faye Calhoun Hall, in the spring of 2021 and he said he’s having a hard time getting over her loss. 

“Donni” asked Bucky to a Sadie Hawkins dance in high school for their first date. They went to In-N-Out Burger prior to the dance. Then, after four years of dating, they were married in 1971; the union lasted 54 years. 

The tragic fire at his lifelong business and his desire to help his employees was clearly eating at him. 

Meanwhile, Hall’s friend Suzi Mangus was sitting in a sketchy chair outside the business offices trying to clean and salvage band equipment for Hall’s classic rock band, Beacon Hill, that were stored in the building. Mangus is the band’s sound technician. Bucky founded the popular regional band nearly a quarter-century ago. 

“They’re supposed to play a concert at the Silver Dollar on the eighth,” Mangus said as she tried to remove soot from mic stands. On Saturday the band announced they were determined to keep the concert date, posting a note to their online fan base. 

“We have some good news and some not so good news. There was a fire in our practice area last week and we’re scrambling to recover. But, we have some great news! Mr Ed Cook will be on stage with us next week (June 8th) at the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill as a special guest!” the post said.

 

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