Incident Detail: 1964 Call No. 03

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Call No.  3
Time Out
Time In
 Multiple Structure Fire 
 300 Block Pottsville St. 

December 10, 1964

Alarm went out for a structure fire at Vern Miller's Store on Pottsville Street in Wiconisco, just two doors east of the original Wiconisco Fire Station. (The fire station in the mid 300-block of Pottsville Street, the one that burned down.) In those days the alarms were still received by telephone and when the Wiconisco house siren sounded the Lykens boys would go to their own station to see what was going on and vice versa. According to legend by Lykens' Fire Chief Elwood Miller, We called up on the phone and asked what was on fire. Wiconico's Chief, George Michaels, said it didn't appear to be much. The Lykens crew said they'd hang around a while. A few minutes passed and the phone rang and when we picked it up, smoke came out and George said, "MAYBE YOU BETTER COME UP!" By the time the night was over, Wiconisco, Lykens, Williamstown, and Elizabethville fought a large fire which destroyed the store and two adjoining houses. It also threatened the Wiconisco Methodist Church for a while. Several minor injuries were reported when a collapse occurred at the rear and came down on the heads of the Lykens crew who happened to be wearing NEW helmets that night. Elizabethville had recently placed into service their new 1964 Hahn pumper which laid its entire bed of 2?-inch hose from the fire back to Bear Creek (aka Sulfur Creek) where the 1934 Studebaker of Elizabethville took draft to supplement the poor flow from the Wiconisco hydrant system.

We received the following resolution from Wiconisco Methodist Church:


Wiconisco Methodist Church

December 15, 1964

WHEREAS at a special meeting of the Official Board of the Wiconisco Methodist Church, December 13, 1964, the following Resolutions were adopted upon the destruction by fire namely, a double church dwelling, the former parsonage. Also, the former Miller Estate and dwelling on Dec. 10, 1964, being discovered at 3:30 A. M.

WHEREAS four (4) Fire Companies promptly responded, namely: Wiconisco, Lykens, Williamstown, and Elizabethville.

WHEREAS seventy-five (75) Volunteer Firemen fought valiantly under adverse circumstances to save our church. They surely remained true to their calling.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Officers and Members of our church express their sincere gratitude by supporting all Fire Companies whenever possible; for without their determined efforts, our beautiful Wiconisco Methodist Church would no longer exist.

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED, that a copy of these Resolutions be forwarded to each of these Fire Companies.

Respectfully submitted Dec. 22, 1964
Pres. Treas. & Trustee John C. Seip
Rec. & Cor. Secy. & Trustee Mrs H C Hochlander
Trustee Harper Rudisill
Trustee John Travitz
Stewardess Lizzie Watkins

Elizabethville's Tom Welker tells us that he remembers sitting in history class the next day (Lykens High School) watching the steam still rising out of the foundations from this fire. Tom has heard various parts of this story from both Lykens and Elizabethville members over the years. His dad, Chal Welker, drove the Lykens '41 International that night and Jacque Wertz was the driver/operator on the Elizabethville Studebaker. Tom said Jacque told many times how the temperature that night was in the teens or single numbers. Jacque said he nearly froze until someone brought their car to the creek and they sat in the car with the window cracked listening to Old Sam (the Studebaker) humming along while the new Hahn truck was parked along the curb. Tom says Jim "Battery" Bateman of Lykens taught him some new words as he described the stuff falling around their ears when the wall collapsed and how the new helmets saved them. Tom's dad, Chal Welker, told that the fire was fed by kerosene tanks in the cellar of the store. Tom remembers from when he was a kid that Mr. Miller used to run a door to door service selling groceries and items from his step van truck.

Additional Notes:
Sadly, on April 15, 1998, Mr. Miller was in a vehicle accident in front of the new McDonalds on Route 209 near Elizabethville. He was seriously injured and was flown from the scene by helicopter. He died the next day from his injuries, at the age of 87. Liberty Hose Company assisted Elizabethville during the accident call by performing traffic control near Loyalton.

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