When the Gong Rings

A Fire History of Charleston, Illinois

 

 

108. FIRE LOG

1960


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NEW FIRE STATION, RARDIN BUILDING FIRE HITS SQUARE

 

 

OLD FIREHOUSE TORN DOWN; CFD MOVE TO 11TH & MADISON TEMPORARY QUARTERS

 

       My memory is all I have to tell of the old firehouse being torn down. It just happened. The city and the square merchants were wanting new parking lots. Charleston wanted a new fire department building, better designed to hold the larger modern pumpers, and a "future" 100 ft. aerial truck. The city had architects design a new building complex including a city hall, police department and fire department at 10th and Madison, Only the fire department portion would be completed. Until the new building would be completed on Nov. 4, 1961, the fire department operated out of the old Blackford Buick garage (presently Grimes Dodge Service Department at 11th Street and Madison). With the move to this single floor building, the brass pole tradition would be gone forever in Charleston. Phone lines into the temporary quarters would allow use of the gong as usual. The quarters were large and drafty, but served well.  Wright's Cafe was next door in the adjoining building. I can remember eating a lot of good meals in that busy restaurant.

 

FIRE CALLS CONTINUE REGARDLESS OF WHERE THE STATION IS LOCATED
       January 7, I960- East side of square
threatened. Fast thinking and a good strategy of fire-fighting saved the group of buildings on the east side. A fire was burning at 5:20 P.M. in Snyder Tailoring Shop, when firemen arrived. Much like the earlier Morris 5 8E 10 fire, a later call would have been too late. No one would have been around to notice. A Higgins boy noticed smoke coming from windows in the alley. Captain Melvin Taylor said, "He talked to us in a calm voice, told us exactly where the trouble was. It is a great help when we know exactly where to go."

 

 

STRATEGY FOR FIREFIGHTING INITIATED

       Strategy in fighting fires on the square is to spot an engine in the front and one in the alley. "We could see a bad blaze through the back door," Taylor said "The room was filed with smoke. One crew entered through the front door, passed through the Squire Shop occupying the front half of the building. Right behind the dividing partition is a stairway leading to storage rooms above. The fire was blazing up the stall's. "I inspected the building two weeks ago," Captain Taylor said.

We knew what we were getting into. Wre could see the blaze, he said, "We had a lot of luck," Tayior said. "We have good equipment, five hundred gallons of water was ready in the tank, and a 1 1/2 inch hose available immediately." Within five or ten minutes all flames were quelled. Off duty firemen responded to the call quickly. All nine men jumped on the job at once. The smoke was overpowering. All firemen in the building wore masks. They threw out smoldering materials. Cloth dries out and begins smoldering again.  Fumes from synthetic fabrics is lethal. The last truck cleared from the area at 8;45 P.M. After that, all night fire watch was kept. Snyder's shop was completely ruined. The way firemen put it is "heavy structural damage in the rear," "Hardly more than a thousand gallons of water was used," Captain Taylor said. He said there was no water damage in the Squire shop, only intense smoke damage. The Eagles Club nearly overhead was filled with smoke. Smoke damage occurred in most nearby businesses.  The Mattoon Fire Department offered help by radio at a moment's notice. Volunteer firemen were of great help.

"FIREMEN ARE WORTH EVERY CENT
. . .as Police Chief Pauley was quoted about this fire.   Commissioner Thomas said they did a "fine job. They helped save the square,"