Friday, November 4, 2011


Washington Island Fire Department volunteers responded to fire
at West Harbor Resort, called in at approx. 4:30 this morning.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -
  Gibson's West Harbor Resort, an island landmark wood frame building and one of the oldest commercial structures on the island, experienced a major fire early this morning.   Volunteer firefighters responded quickly, using the newly acquired aerial pumper truck (purchased from neighboring Liberty Grove Fire Dept.) to knock down flames.  Members of the Gibson family, including owners Herb and Marianna, were reported to have safely exited the building shortly after the fire was discovered.

No details of how or where the fire began are yet available, but it appeared as though damage was greatest next to the chimney, the east end of the building.   There are rental rooms on the second floor, and family living quarters in the western end of the building.

By 6 a.m. exterior flames appeared to have been checked, and firemen were about to attack the internal parts of the building to further extinguish burning material.   All units of the Island Fire Department were on scene, including pumper units at the Ferry Dock, where the tankers were being refilled.

Offering to assist, Liberty Grove Fire Chief Chris Hecht sent approximately eight volunteers, led by Liberty Grove Fire Captain, Lee Telfer, across the Door.  They arrived at the Island dock on Jeff Weborg's trap net boat from Gills Rock around 5:45 a.m. and joined Island firefighters at the West Harbor scene.   (Note:  By 7:40 a.m. they were on their way back to Gills Rock via Weborg's trap net boat.)

By the time the 7 a.m. ferry Washington began loading for the first trip leaving the island, water demand had slowed.

The hope is that damage will be confined to the eastern end of the structure, but that may be better determined in the next hour or two with daylight and a better assessment of damage from the interior.

This building, before it became a resort, had at one time housed men working in a West Harbor sawmill operation, prior to 1900.   The property, situated on a beautiful site along the island's western shoreline and also on the small inlet known as West Harbor, has provided rooms, meals, and hospitality to generations of guests for decades.  For over 50 of those most recent years, it has been operated by members of the Gibson family.

  -  Dick Purinton  -  7:40 am


Irene Kuiper said...

Thank you to the Island Fire dept. and Liberty Grove Fire Dept. for saving the home of our dear friends, Herb and Mari Gibson. Also a thank you to the boat captains for getting extra fire fighters to the Island!
Ed and Irene Kuiper

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for posting this information Dick. We are thanking God for the two fire departments who responded so quickly and well in stopping the fire. While the loss is great, at least the structure is standing and knowing the Gibson's; they'll rebuild. Memories of so many hours of enjoyment, relaxation, and fellowship flashed through my mind as I looked at the picture. Gibsons - we all love you and are praying for you daily.