When the Gong Rings
A Fire History of Charleston, Illinois

144.  FIRE LOG 1967

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 Wilb Walkers and Ben Franklin 5 & 10 Store, Charleston, Burns

(left) Volunteer fireman, Prather, helping connect the hose line to the pumper of the ladder truck at the Walker's Fire

(right) Volunteer Luther Dennis also helps assist firemen on the ladder



        Business was slack the night of the fire. Dean La Frentz, night supervisor noticed a wisp of flame from his store front office position, above the produce counter in the center of the building. The two co-workers, Mike Mossbarger and John Bell had also seen it. They converged on the spot with a fire extinguisher. They noticed the fire was from up above. When opening the store room door, the flames were great, and they scurried to the front of the building. La Frentz called on the intercom and asked all people to leave the store. He then called the fire department from the Ben Franklin store, because the Walker's phone line was already burned apart..

        Employees picked up a few coats and La Frentz grabbed some loose money in the office. No money was taken from the cash registers. Within an hour the building (both stores) was gutted. Joe Ethridge arrived from Mattoon within a half-hour of the start of the fire. He witnessed the destruction. He made a statement:: "I'll just stay and look at my bonfire," he said. And then his spirits rose. "I do want to express my appreciation to the fire department for its hard work and to the police department for its help."