Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

NOTHING LEFT of the CASCA and WHITEHORSE but smoldering ashes and the metal boilers and stern wheel brackets. The destruction of the two steamships reduced to three the surviving members of the original White Pass fleet.

Riverboats Up In Flames

Hundreds of people stood on the banks of the Yukon River yesterday morning and cried as the riverboats CASCA and WHITEHORSE were engulfed by flames.

By Whitehorse Star on June 21, 1974

Friday, June 21, 1974.

RIVERBOATS UP IN FLAMES.

Hundreds of people stood on the banks of the Yukon River yesterday morning and cried as the riverboats CASCA and WHITEHORSE were engulfed by flames.

The two grand old ladies of the White Pass and Yukon Route fleet caught fire at approximately 10 a.m. and were reduced to two large heaps of ashes less than two hours later. The dry wooden ships burned like tinder, with flames rising more than 100 feet in the air within minutes and giving off an intense heat.

Fire officials still have found no cause of the fire, and say that investigations are continuing.

Firemen were still hosing down the red–hot coals late yesterday, and no inspection was expected for at least 24 hours, according to Yukon fire marshal Tom Nairn.

Shortly after the fire call went out, police helped three young people off the CASCA. The trio, in their early twenties and from Ontario, had been living on the boat for a week. They were taken in to custody and questioned by police until late Thursday afternoon before being released. No charges were laid and police, along with fire officials, are seeking another explanation for the fire.

The blaze began on the CASCA, spreading rapidly to the WHITEHORSE, less than 10 feet away, and threatened to engulf a storage shed owned by White Pass as well. Firemen, after overcoming initial difficulties with a lack of water, managed to douse the shed and prevent the fire from going beyond the bounds of the riverboats

The pair of stately old steamboats were two of five left from a fleet that plied the rivers of the Yukon during the first half of this century. The WHITEHORSE, built in 1901, was the acknowledged Queen of that fleet. Ironically, she was built on the very spot that she finally died on yesterday.

The three remaining members of the White Pass fleet are the KLONDIKE, situated in town just up the river from the two that burned yesterday; the TUTSHI, settled in Carcross; and the KENO, now a national historic site at Dawson.

Within minutes of the fire alarm, hundreds of people had gathered at the final resting place of the two old sternwheelers. Dozens of old–timers who were here when the boats were actually in operation recalled memories to quiet bystanders.

Roy Minter, an employee of White Pass who had long lobbied for the preservation and restoration of the neglected boats, was at the scene too, looking slouch–shouldered and defeated.

"…I've always thought of Dawson as the center of the Gold Rush" he said sadly, "and of Whitehorse as the center of transportation during those days. These boats were such an integral part of all that. Today they're gone and the Yukon just lost a little of its soul."

Comments (1)

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Jonathan Schwindt on Nov 28, 2016 at 10:03 pm

I was there. I was in church with my family on Black street. I ran down the street to the White Pass yard where they were kept. The heat was very intense even from a distance.

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