Incident Detail: 1978 Call No. 11

Call No.  11
Time Out
Time In

 Structure Fire 
 Swab Wagon Company 

No Photo Available for This Incident

December 12, 1978

Around 1AM, Liberty Hose Company No. 2 responded to assist Elizabethville with a major fire at the Swab Wagon Company. The fire partially destroyed the factory when flames swept through it. The fire started in the foreman's office and spread quickly throughout the factory. Engine-21 (the '64 Hahn) had attached to a hydrant in the first block of West Main Street and the boys hand jacked a 2-inch hose toward the fire. The line was charged, but the nozzle failed to open. While the second hose was laid, the '34 Studebaker took the hydrant on Callowhill Street. By then the fire had extended up past the new ceiling which had recently been installed, unknown to the Fire Dept. (The fuel shortage of the 70's convinced the owners to try to save some money by placing a ceiling below the original one.) The fire ran east from the point of contact above the ceiling and below the roof. Several attempts were made to get ahead of it, but to no avail. It vented into the office on the East end of the Building and destroyed records that were kept since the beginning of the Company. Several ambulances were in the shop in various stages of construction and were damaged. Dalmatia's was one of them. The blaze was battled for over five hours by more than 100 local firefighters from the companies from Elizabethville, Berrysburg, Millersburg, and Lykens. Elizabethville fire company remained on duty all the next day to police hot spots. Elizabethville Fire Chief, Jacque Wertz, said that though the western portions of the plant were salvageable, the eastern part of the plant was destroyed.

Elizabethville's Tom Welker recalls:
This was a night and day to remember. I actually lived out of town and saw the glow while coming toward the call. As I arrived, I passed Charlie Wertz, who was in his last month as Fire Chief - after 30 years as Chief he had officially passed the reins on to Jacque Wertz. Both Jacque and Charlie operated flawlessly at this call, one of Charlie's last in the White Helmet. Charlie was headed to his car to "get some help coming." Water supply was a big problem as Elizabethville had an antiquated main system of mostly four and six inch mains. Many lessons were learned that night. Elizabethville became the first company in Upper Dauphin County to purchase 5-inch hose and have a tanker with Newton Dump Valve."

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