OGALLALA — The former Good-All Electric Inc. manufacturing plant was destroyed Sunday evening in the largest fire Ogallala has seen in the last five years.
The building at 201 S. Spruce St. was engulfed by the time most fire departments arrived and too hot and unsafe to gain entry.
At midmorning Monday, Keystone-Lemoyne Fire Department Chief Ralph Moul was in charge at the scene after Ogallala Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dell Simmerman went home to get some sleep.
Moul said that by the time his department arrived, the fire had to be fought from a defensive posture. There were flames through the roof before most of the out-of-city assistance arrived, Moul said.
The firefighters tried to gain entry into the building, but the fire was too far along and too hot, Moul said.
“It just wasn’t safe enough for us to go in,” Moul said.
The fire burned hot and large until about 9:30 p.m. The second floor of the building on the east end of the structure was still burning through Monday.
The remainder of the building smoldered as firefighters sifted through the rubble in an effort to make sure no one was caught inside.
Moul said firefighters were not sure if anyone died in the blaze and probably won’t know until the rubble has been investigated.
Three state fire marshals also were on the scene Monday, as were crews from the Nebraska Public Power District and Allo Communications.
The building was situated close to power poles and lines just to the west near the street curb. One power pole caught on fire, and along with that charred pole, several lines will have to be replaced. The power was shut off briefly in some parts of Ogallala as the fire roared on Sunday.
“We had four deck guns going for hours,” Moul said. “And those things pump 1,250 gallons of water per minute. It got to the point where we just had to drown the fire.”
The Keith County Communications Center had received multiple calls Sunday about smoke coming from the building’s roof.
The Ogallala Volunteer Fire Department was paged to the scene at 5:34 p.m. Sunday, with Paxton, Brule and Keystone-Lemoyne paged three minutes later. Grant was phoned to assist.
About 50 firefighters and 25 assorted rigs were needed to control the blaze. No firefighters were injured fighting the fire.
Although it was a business hub building for Ogallala for more than four decades, the Good-All structure has been vacant for more than 30 years.
In its heyday in the late 1940s through the 1980s, the manufacturing plant produced cathodic protection to prevent rust and corrosion on ships and other items.
Ogallala magnate Robert Goodall originally constructed the building, which was first used to manufacture fishing reels in the early 1940s.
ASC Capacitors and Arnold Magnetic Technologies, both of Ogallala, are descended from Good-All Electric Manufacturing Co., which Goodall founded in 1928.
The original firm was purchased by international electronics concern TRW in 1960, seven years after Goodall’s death.
TRW in 1963 sold its rectifier manufacturing unit, which then was renamed Good-All Electric. Valmont Industries Inc. of Valley bought the spinoff firm in 1978 and moved it in 1989 to Fort Collins, Colorado.
A cursory look at the current building includes a presumed-to-be about 80-by-150-foot storage building that is controlled by a Lincoln management firm.
This fire marked Ogallala’s largest and most destructive blaze since the Dec. 9, 2016, fire destroyed the Comfort Inn at the Interstate 80 interchange.
That fire occurred in the wee hours of the morning in bitterly cold weather.
Moul said firefighters will continue their work through at least Tuesday.
Those working will eventually tear down walls and level the building because it is unsafe. It’s the same process that occurred with the Comfort Inn fire in the final days of 2016.
North Platte Telegraph reporter Todd von Kampen contributed to this report.