Incident Detail: 1963 Call No. 01

Call No.  1
Time Out
Time In

 Rube Abboff's store 

No Photo Available for This Incident

January 25, 1963

A fire which broke out in mid afternoon soon had the Lykens Boys busy well into the night.

Tom Welker, now of Elizabethville's Company 21, recalls it like this:
"School had just dismissed and, on the walk home, the crossing guard at Main and Pine Streets asked me why I wasn't running. The fire siren had gone off just as the crossing guards left the school building on North Second Street a few minutes before school dismissal. She pointed skyward and billows of dark colored smoke were visible to the southeast of where we stood. "That's back by my house! ", I thought and took off running. As I rounded the corner of South Second Street, I could see the fire was up past the fire house and the 41 International was already there. Running past my house, I threw my books to my Grandma and kept going. The fire was at Rube Abboff's store on the corner of South Second and Market Streets. Heavy smoke was pushing out of many openings and the first hoseline which was in the front door was being pulled back. My Uncle Ken Welker was on the second floor balcony when it lit off and he retreated down the ladder quickly, and my Dad was at the pump panel of the 41 flowing water to several lines. Chief Elwood "Ellie " Miller was barking orders. Wiconisco, Williamstown, and Elizabethville fire companies soon arrived to assist. The roof went next and flames were high in the sky. It then extended into the next building, which was an office I believe of the propane gas company. Abboff's sold appliances and other household items. Lots of water was flying and soon everything was coated with ice on that cold January late afternoon. At one point Firefighters hooked a 2?-inch hose directly to the hydrant at Doc Bakers and directed the stream to try to break the picture window of the gas company's office. The efforts of 50 to 75 firefighters were in vain however, as the buildings were a total loss. The fire was blamed on a faulty chimney and apparently had great headway before it was noticed. Abboff's relocated to a new store front on Main Street and the Building was never rebuilt. It is now the empty lot across the street from Station 22. [as of 2007] It was an exciting day for a 6th rader!!!!"
(Note: Tom Welker grew up in Lykens, the son of Chal Welker - a very active Liberty Hose Company member and officer.)

Jim Hoffman remembers watching this fire as a kid. He watched it from the bank along the railroad tracks next to Danny Bopp's store, across the tracks from the fire. When Jim told Tom Welker about this, Tom remembered the bank being full of spectators. Tom later learned that Dr. A. Pianovitch had an office full of people watching the fire in the warmth. Later in life, Jim Hoffman talked to Chal Welker about this call. Chal told him how the windows of the second floor blew out into the street. Jim also remembers seeing the frustration on the faces of the firefighters that day. It wasn't until many years later, when he became involved in the fire service, that he truly understood what caused that look - how sometimes no matter what you do, you can't change the outcome.

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