When the Gong Rings
A Fire History of Charleston, Illinois

121.  FIRE LOG 1963

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       The fire burned quickly through the (near) eighty year old three-story building. False ceilings made it difficult to reach the flames, he said.  Also destroyed in the fire were offices of Carlisle Real Estate, Hall Insurance Agency, Wallace and Beil Law Firm, Burke Law Firm, Ronnie Lanman Insurance Agency, Eaton Insurance Agency, Fender Realtor, Chamber of Commerce, the Stiff Appliance Store, Green's Ice Cream Store, Charleston Cleaners and the Newcomb Barbershop.  Flames broke through the roof of the three-story building about noon. The fire swept unchecked to three newer two story buildings. Firemen were hampered by the lack of a hook and ladder truck to reach the top of the buildings, City policemen used shotguns to shoot out windows in upper stories, enabling water to be poured into the buildings. Water was as deep as eight inches in the floors of some stores and the offices before it froze. Streets and the weakened walls were ice encrusted. Volunteer firemen from Mattoon, Arcola, Ashmore, Westfield and Casey aided the local department. Several EIU students also helped. Many of the volunteer firemen were soaked by water that turned to ice. Stores furnished extra gloves, warm clothing and food. The (Charleston Moose Lodge fed the firemen a hot meal as they took breaks). The destroyed buildings were owned by John Rardin, Jake Wilson, the Rebekah Lodge, Don Stittj Leland Hall, Rosa and Dorothy Green and Gerald Reed.



CFD reported that they figured fire trucks pumped 1,971,000 gallons of water and used a total of 4,700 feet of hose. Truck #1 (the Howe) hooked up near City Hall, pumped 405,000 gallons of water in nine hours of operation. Truck #2 (the Quad) set in front of the comer of the building pumped an est. 1,080,000 gallons in 24 hours; A Mattoon truck (in front of the CNB) pumped 270,000 gallons; Ashmore (at N.E. corner of the square, and Westfield truck (from a plug near the old jail) each pumped an est. 108,000 gallons for six hours of service each. When all five trucks were pumping at once, they were able to put 3,000 gallons of water per mm. on the fire. All together 4,500 feet of 2 1/2 inch and 450 feet of 1 1/2 inch were used, according to firemen's estimates. Truck #1 (Howe) used 800 feet of 2 1/2 inch fire hose, 150 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose.   Truck #3 (Quad) used 800 feet of the larger hose and 200 feet of the smaller hose.

Mattoon used the most hose, stringing 1,200 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose; Ashmore laid 750 feet of 2 1/2 inch and 100 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose, while Westfield used 700 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose. Bob Montz, water works operator, reported a total of 3,069,000 gallons of water was pumped from aabout 9:15 A.M. Thursday until the last fire hose was shut off about 9:30 A.M. Friday. The normal city water usage is about a million gallons per 24 hours. The main pumper track of the Charleston Fire Department set on the corner of Sixth & Jackson (the quad) had the motor running for more than 26 hours in providing pressure for the fire. Firemen said the pumper used a tank of gas every three hours during this extended period.