When the Gong Rings






A Fire History of Charleston, Illinois

119.  FIRE LOG







       December 19, 1963 started as any day. The men cooked breakfast: 8 blueberry muffins, 8 apple turnovers. Truck and firehouse were maintained in morning ritual. The Charleston square was decorated for Christmas, and people were bustling in and out of businesses to keep out of the cold. The gong sounded at 9:04 A.M. The call was from Neer's Paint Store, S.W. corner of the square in the Rardin Building. Mel Taylor's personal journal of that day described the alarm. The men on-duty that day were: Captain Mel Taylor, Leonard Ward; Eugene Hackett, and Edward Ferguson. On arrival to Neer's Paint Store the men noticed the fire was "completely out of control!" No. 1 and No. 2 were hooked up.

       The quad was placed at a diagonal to the N.E. corner of the large three story building. Other departments were immediately called to help: Ashmore, Mattoon, Westfield, and Arcola. Arcola stood-by at the fire-house. The temperature the morning of December 19 was -2 degrees. The morning of December 20 was -8 degrees. The men would end up out of the station for several hours. I can remember the coating of ice on the helmets and faces of the men. The square and whole area was filled with smoke. Pictures of the conflagration seem dim. This is because of the smoke and mist in the air. The building eventually became a kind of ice sculpture.