Highlights from the

Herald Democrat

15 Years Ago

Old Finntown building burns in arson

by Marcia Martinek

Herald Editor

August 4, 2005


A building in Leadville’s old Finntown was destroyed Sunday night in a fire that is being investigated as arson by Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Firefighters were called out at 11:30 p.m. Sunday on a report of a fire near the Mineral Belt Trail on E. 5th St. (CR 1). Upon arrival, they found an 1880s wood frame structure fully involved in flames. Firefighters worked to contain the fire to the building and keep it from spreading.

The fire was extinguished at 11:30 p.m. and the last unit left at 2:29 a.m. Monday. CBI arson investigator Jerry Means was on the scene Tuesday to investigate the source of the fire.

Fire Prevention Officer John Ortiz said that anyone with information on the fire can call him at 486-4685 or call (877)89ARSON and leave an anonymous message. There is a $5,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of an arsonist.

The building in question is said to have once been the home of Otto Wirtanen. He died Dec. 21, 1960, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery. According to the obituary in the Herald Democrat, Wirtanen’s address was 37 Finntown. He was born in Sysma Mekkel, Finland, on March 11, 1878, and came to the United States and Leadville in 1907, where he worked as a miner.

Howard Tritz told the Herald that a few months ago, a professor from the University of Wisconsin came here and visited the house. He was interested in the way the house was built using Finnish wooden pegs, and took photos to use in a book he’s writing. He said at the time that the university might be interested in providing some help in preserving the old house. He also visited the cemetery and found the Wirtanen grave.

Helen Stapleton told the Herald that much of the Finntown settlement was destroyed in a fire, apparently an arson, that occurred a number of years ago.

Boy survives fall from pass

by Ann E. Wibbenmeyer

Herald Staff Writer

August 11, 2005


Riley Hogdell, 16, of Highlands Ranch, fell about 500 feet as he was hiking with a friend on Hagerman Pass on Saturday, according to John Ortiz, Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue spokesperson.

The Lake County Emergency Services technical rescue team, made up of the fire department, Lake County Search and Rescue, and Emergency Medical Services, responded at about 1:30 p.m. on a report of the fallen hiker.

While en route, rescuers were advised that the patient was suffering trauma and severe blood loss, according to Ortiz. He said the hiker was about one mile from the summit of the pass.

Hogdell and his friend were out “messing around on the rocks when one was dislodged,” said Jeff Foley of Search and Rescue. He fell with the rock.

The fall was about 200 feet of vertical steps and another almost 400 feet of talus field, said Foley. A talus field is big rocks, he explained.

“It’s amazing that he survived the fall,” said Foley.

The friend and a nurse bystander went to him, and the nurse started first aid immediately, said Foley.

The rescue tech team arrived on the scene at about 2 p.m., according to Captain Chris Sutton, a firefighter first on the scene.

Another hour later, the responders reached Hogdell by rappelling 800 feet down to him from their base camp.

According to Foley, after reaching Hogdell, the rescue team had to get the patient on a backboard and litter and set up a rope system to get Hogdell down to where Flight For Life could land.

Had there been a lightning storm during the rescue, and Flight For Life had to leave, a Chaffee County Search and Rescue team also responded as support at the bottom of the scene. They set up camp at the May Queen campground and provided food, shelter and clothing to the bystanders, as well as backup for the rescue team, according to Eric Young, Chaffee County Search and Rescue coordinator. They would have been there to help hike the patient out if needed.

Hogdell, still alive, was lifted from the scene at about 4 p.m., according to Sutton, and taken to St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver.

Hogdell was still alive at his arrival there, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s office.

The rescuers were unable to climb back up to the base camp, and had to hike out of the scene in rainy, mid- to upper-40-degree weather, according to Ortiz. It took the team about three hours to hike out, he said. The bystanders hiked out with the rescue workers.

The technical rescue team was established a year and a half ago, said Foley, and he was very pleased with the rescue. It went as well as it could have, he said.

“The amazing thing about that day,” said Sutton, “with all the Boom Days events, and the rescue, we still had engine one in service.” There was a lot of personnel support from the fire department this weekend.

As of press time Tuesday, Hogdell was reported be in serious condition by St. Anthony Central Hospital.

Boom Days 2005 Top 10


Was Boom Days bigger and better than ever? It seemed that way to us as we rushed from event to event, taking more than 500 photos.

Again this year we’re presenting our Boom Days Top 10 List, although it’s tough to pick just ten things worthy of mention. Here goes:

10. The float from the summer reading program at the Lake County Public Library. The actual float, the costumes and, most of all, the kids were cute as could be. As an aside, people were saying that all the parade entries are getting better and more imaginative each year.

9. The addition of several new events, such as the mountain-board show and the rodeo, that served to add interest to the weekend for different audiences.

8. The Scarlet Inn’s mechanical bull. Having it outdoors added to the fun as we saw people of all ages give it a try. We, however, were not among them.

7. Vendor food. Our theory is that if you leave your car at home and walk everywhere during Boom Days, there will be no caloric intake from eating anything you want. Trust us on this one.

6. Getting to pick our favorite car in the car show. We dutifully looked under each hood (yes, they all had engines), and then selected the one we’d most like to drive home. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

5. Marching in the parade, exchanging quips with the crowd, and having the amazing experience of looking down Harrison Avenue and seeing thousands of people who were smart enough to visit Leadville for Boom Days (it was also amazing on Monday morning to drive down Harrison and see how clean everything was).

4. Talking with various vendors and finding out how well our Boom Days weekend compares with many other shows they also visit.

3. Working with the Boom Days Committee, and then seeing how this event comes together each year. Some groups struggle to raise money and run events in this town. They need to take “how-to” lessons from both the Boom Days Committee and the Leadville Lions.

2. Having the firefighters as grand marshals, and then seeing them around town all weekend participating in various events. They aren’t just a bunch of good-looking faces in fancy uniforms (although we do appreciate that aspect, too).

And our No. 1 . . . An opportunity to see former friends and neighbors who return to Leadville for Boom Days weekend each year. It’s like a family reunion, only better, because great food and entertainment are thrown in.

Marcia Martinek

Herald Editor

ASARCO files for


by Ann E. Wibbenmeyer

Herald Staff Writer

August 18, 2005


ASARCO LLC has filed for chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy, which could affect Superfund site cleanup projects.

The most affected appears to be the Globe plant just off of I-70 east of Denver, which is not run through a trust fund. The Yak Tunnel and Kids First projects are ASARCO California Gulch Superfund site projects in Lake County.

Filing for bankruptcy has some impacts on everything, said Bob Litle of ASARCO, but it is still early in the process. It will be some time before all is figured out, he said.

Kids First is funded through an escrow account that is not held by ASARCO. The money in this account should not be affected, said Litle.

ASARCO has been talking about the financials for a while, said Litle, but, “the actual filing was a surprise to me,” he said.

For now, the California Gulch Superfund site projects should be business as usual, he said.

Old Trail 100 record is ‘crushed’

by Ann E. Wibbenmeyer

Herald Staff Writer

August 25, 2005


Surprising almost everyone, Matt Carpenter of Manitou Springs crossed the finish line at the 23rd annual Leadville Trail 100 ultra marathon at 7:42 p.m. Saturday.

Instead of the crowd of well-wishers usually stationed at the finish line to cheer him in, Carpenter was met by his wife, Yvonne, who had the only camera present for his finish.

“He crushed last year’s record by one-and-a-half hours,” said Ken Chlouber at the awards ceremony on Sunday.

Last year’s record-setting time was 17 hours, 16 minutes and 19 seconds set by Paul DeWitt, who did not run this year. Carpenter’s time was 15:42:59.

Three hours and 21 minutes later, Dan Vega, Colorado Springs, crossed the finish line in second place with a time of 19:03:01.

Another spectacular finish came at the very end of the 30-hour race. Spectators were treated to a real cliff-hanger when Giovanni Battista Torelli, Rome, Italy, came in at 29:59:59.

Spotting the lone runner wavering as he headed down the 6th Street hill while the clock ticked away, the crowd wasn’t about to see him miss the mark by just a few seconds.

Everyone cheered Battista on loudly as he crossed the finish line just as Mayor Bud Elliott shot off the gun signifying the end of the race.

Another notable performance came from Jeffrey Tiegs, Ft. Carson, who placed eighth with a time of 20:37:55. Tiegs has completed three tours of duty in Iraq. As he was given his award Sunday, the crowd gave this “army of one” (as one audience member described him) a standing ovation.

The first Leadville finisher was Gene Bartzen, with a time of 24:02:27. He was 39th overall.

The only Leadville lady to finish was Jeanne Willis, with a time of 28:58:40, putting her 143rd overall.

Of the 407 runners who started the race, 213, or 54 percent, finished.

(Marcia Martinek, editor, contributed to this story.)

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