Incident Detail: 1962 Call No. 02
Call No. 2
Walker Feed Mill
No Photo Available for This Incident
April 28, 1962
the Saturday morning routine of the Residents of Elizabethville was changed from a quiet one to one of excitement. Dan Wertz ran to the pull box located on the front of the Fire House and pulled the hook. As members of the Reliance Hose Company ran to answer the alarm, a large column of smoke was seen issuing from the C.L. Walker Feed Mill on Vine Street. On this unusally warm morning employees at the mill were shelling corn into a wooden bin. A husk from one of the cobs became wrapped around the shaft of the sheller and caught fire. The fan of the machine blew fire and sparks into the bin and caught the contents on fire. They tried for ten to fifteen minutes to extinguish the fire themselves before calling the fire company. By the time the alarm was sounded, the bin was well involved and fire was quickly extending into the mill. Chief Charles C. Wertz rounded the corner to the mill and saw the extinguishers lying on the ground and guessed what had transpired. Engine-21 (the '34 Studebaker) arrived, piloted by Jacque Wertz. The Fire Station at this time was on Market Street just South of the Routes 209 & 225 intersection, next to Swab Wagon Company's Chyrsler-Plymouth Dealership. The fire was about a block away from the station. Jacque would have come off the ramp and turned right (up the Mountain), traveled about 100 feet, turned left at the Former Flips Bar and Grille, and the Mill was straight ahead one more block. It is told that he only stopped at the mill long enough for some of the mill workers to grab the 2?-inch hose, which always had a nozzle attached, and then he proceeded to the hydrant on Moore Street, another half block to the East. Legend has it that when he crossed the railroad tracks, the hose lifted out of the bed. The hydrant was only about 50 feet from the railroad tracks and he connected to the hydrant with hard suction hose and went into service. A second line was then hand jacked and he took all the water that the hydrant would supply. Mutual aid was requested from several neighboring towns. Millersburg arrived with two pumpers under the direction of Chief Herb Hoke. Charlie quickly confered with Herb and Charlie said, "Herb you take control of the fire and I'll get you the water." Charlie knew the hydrant system and figured his knowledge in that matter would be invaluable. As the fire grew in size, the Southerly breeze of fifteen to twenty miles per hour carried fire brands across Main Street and caught several roofs on fire. At least five roofs were burning. Lykens arrived and was directed to stay on Main street and handle the roofs before additional damage occured. Residents were on their roofs with brooms and buckets of water working to save their homes. Charlie used to tell of the women of the town standing in their yards crying openly afraid half the town would burn. Gratz fire company arrived and was sent to handle several field and grass fires along the Northern edge of town. Berrysburg, Halifax, and Williamstown Firefighters arrived to assist where needed. Six Firemen were injured and treated at the fire station where Doc Buxton had set up shop for the day. The home of the Walker family was located at its closest point only four feet from the blazing mill. Thanks to the effort of the crews on scene the contents were removed and in total the house only suffered damages totalling $500. Other damages occured to the Williams Valley Lumber Yard across the railroad tracks from the mill and several homes on Main Street. Loss to the mill was valued at $100,000. An estimated 285,000 gallons of water was used from the reservoir that day. (The water Superintendant had measured the level earlier that day and went back after the fire to check it.) This remains the most spectacular fires in Elizabethville history. The temperature was in the upper 70's and there was a steady south breeze working against the crews. Many unsung heros worked to save Elizabethville.
Thanks to Elizabethville's Tom Welker for providing the details of this fire.
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