Throughout the fire department’s 75 years, there have been major fires that made headlines. A fire that most can agree was one of the most severe in history is the fire that gutted the Wright Theatre in October of 1964 and required the rescue of a family from an upstairs apartment.
The fire caused extensive damage to the interior of the Wright Theatre building which, in addition to the movie theater, housed the bowling alley, post office and apartments of the David Larson family and the Melvin and Carole Borell family.
The alarm was turned in by Woody Stuhr at about 12:30 p. m. on Thursday, October 29, 1964. Firefighters were on the scene almost immediately, but even at this time the smoke could be seen filtering out from the roof and windows.
The Larsons were not at home at the time of the fire but Carole Borell, her infant son, Tommy, and sister, Sheila Pribyl (now Fobbe), had to be evacuated by firefighters.
While watching TV, Carole said she heard a boom that was followed by smoke filling up the building. Attempting to reach the exit down the hall, she said she opened her apartment door to find the hall filled with smoke and no way through it.
“I remember Jack Nugent hollering at us to get out of the building so we went right back into the apartment and went to the main windows, opened them and waited for the fire department,” Carole said.
Firefighter Leo Dircks was waiting at the outside window with a ladder and took Tommy Borell down first. Sheila was then rescued, followed by Carole.
“All I wanted to do was get the new baby out. We didn’t even take anything with us, no diapers or food or anything. We just got out of the building,” said Carole.
After recovering the three from the apartment, firefighters found that the heaviest blaze was at the rear of the building behind the movie screen. Although several hoses were centered in this area, a brisk wind from the south posed a problem for firefighters and aid from the departments at Annandale and Buffalo were needed.
Once the fire was extinguished, the damage could be assessed.
“The fire only caused smoke and water damage to our apartment,” said Mel Borell who was at work with the Wright County Highway Department during the time of the fire. Smoke and water also damaged the Larson’s apartment, bowling alley and post office space.
Mel Borell later became a member of the Maple Lake Fire Department. His son, Todd Borell, was born after the fire and is now Maple Lake’s fire chief.
The Wright Theatre and the bowling alley never reopened and other businesses made use of the facility. Now, 48 years after the fire, the building is now the home of the Maple Lake Library.