When the Gong Rings
A Fire History of Charleston, Illinois
179.  FIRE LOG 1973     

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Also read: page 178,   page 180,   page 181,   page 182,   page 183,   page 184,   page 185,   page 186,   page 187,   page 188,   page 189


THE GREAT DECISION-- NOT TO FIGHT THE FIRE

HENRY TAITT RESIDENTIAL FIRE

Eastern News reporters, Dann Gire and Ron Shaffer reported on the Taitt fire.  This is their news piece: 

PROFESSORS' HOME DESTROYED BY FIREPOLICE, VOLUNTEERS SET FIRES TO RETARD SPREAD
By Dann Gire & Ron Shaffer, Feb. 14, 1973
The home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Taitt, located on South Fourth Street was totally destroyed by a fire beginning shortly before 4:45 P.M. Monday night. Taitt and his wife, Nancy, are both instructors at Eastern, teaching physics and mathematics respectively. The Charleston Fire Department, called out to the scene about 5 P.M., was unable to fight the spreading fire because the Taitt house stood an estimated 50 feet outside city limits. Captain Melvin H. Taylor of the Fire Department explained to the News that the department was "bound by the city  law to stay within the city limits unless there is a life hazard."

"Only a small flame"
The fire was discovered by Mrs. Taitt around 4:45 when she returned home from taking her children to swimming lessons. "When I came home," said Mrs. Taitt, "there was only a small flame over the sink. The only thing we managed to get out was our dog." "I tried to put out the fire with buckets of water through the window,: she said. She felt the fire could easily have been extinguished if the fire department could have done anything. Ed Ferguson, off duty Charleston Fireman, and Patrolmen Odie Swift and Ken Lansdown futilely fought the blaze in its initial stages while three firetrucks set inactively at the end of the Taitt driveway.

"Garden hoses used"
Garden hoses were used by police and volunteers
when an extinguisher from a squad car was exhausted and soon after an extinguisher from another squad car was emptied. Shortly after 6 P.M., Mr. Taitt arrived and informed the blaze fighters that a small amount of shotgun and rifle ammunition was stored in the

 

 

house. Ammunition sporadically went off in the inferno, but did not pose a threat to safety. The Charleston Fire Department left for around one hour and fifteen minutes before they were again called to the scene, after the fire spread up a hillside threatening houses inside the city line. However, police and volunteers had begun backfiring the hillside to contain the blaze when an extinguisher from a squad car was exhausted and soon after an extinguisher from another squad car was emptied. Shortly after 6 P.M., Mr. Taitt arrived and informed the blaze fighters that a small amount of shotgun and rifle ammunition was stored in the house. Ammunition sporadically went off in the inferno, but did not pose a threat to safety. The Charleston Fire Department left for around one hour and fifteen minutes before they were again called to the scene, after the fire spread up a hillside threatening houses inside the city line. However, police and volunteers had begun backfiring the hillside to contain the blaze when an extinguisher from a squad car was exhausted and soon after an extinguisher from another squad car was emptied. Shortly after 6 P.M., Mr. Taitt arrived and informed the blaze fighters that a small amount of shotgun and rifle ammunition was stored in the house. Ammunition sporadically went off in the inferno, but did not pose a threat to safety. The Charleston Fire Department left for around one hour and fifteen minutes before they were again called to the scene, after the fire spread up a hillside threatening houses inside the city line. However, police and volunteers had begun backfiring the hillside to contain the blaze.  The End
COUNTRY FIRES A PROBLEM FROM LATE 50'S

In 1959 the policy was set. Hutton and Ashmore had fire districts, but many areas around Charleston were not protected. People figured that fire trucks would arrive if called. This figuring was wrong, at least when Captain Taylor was on-duty. He obeyed the law. The law said that he stop at the City line, unless threat of life, or to another fire district for mutual aid. The Taitt fire only threatened a structure. He made the decision to stop at the line.   Many letters to the editor were printed.  Many against the Charleston City policy, many end-the-end pro.  This is a sad but important of fire protection history for the Charleston area.

 

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