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The History of Fire Fighting in Christiansburg before 1948

 

The history of fires and the equipment used to fight fires in the early years of Christiansburg may be lost to the ages.  From 1817 to 1885 there are no known records or even stories told about fires that probably happened.

From 1885 to 1948 there were ten or more major fires in Christiansburg. 

In 1885 William Marshallís home burned at the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Elm Tree Rd. 

In 1893 at the southwest corner of Fourth and Monroe streets the large brick home of Len Marshall burned.  Also burned was a long building that set south of the house and 15 feet from the Methodist Church at the corner of Monroe and Third Street. 

About 1905 another fire was a livery stable that set on the south side of Second Street between Main and Monroe Streets.  The livery stable served the patrons who came into town on the Springfield, Troy and Piqua Traction Line and stayed in the hotel that was at the northeast corner of Main and Second Streets. 

Around 1920 a fire destroyed a blacksmith shop located at the northeast corner of Main and Third Street. 

In February 1924, on a snow and ice covered day a house burned that stood just north of where the blacksmith shop had been on North Main Street.  This is now 302 North Main Street. 

Later in 1924 at the corner of Main and First Street a 2 story building that once housed a restaurant and a one story building where tombstones were sold was destroyed by fire.

In the winter of 1932 a 2 story department store operated by a man and wife names Wilgus burned.  When the fire started Mrs. Wilgus was away.  Mr. Wilgus was on the second floor, he went out a window on to a porch roof and jumped off.  This building set right on the northeast corner of Main and Pike streets.  This fire also burned a 2 story building to the East that was once the ticket office for the S. T. and P. traction line and had a card room upstairs.

On a Saturday morning in October of 1933 or 1934 a house at the corner of Main and Walnut Street burned.

In the spring of 1938 or 1939 at the southeast corner of Main and High streets a house was destroyed by fire.  The chemical cart was charged at this fire when a rubber washer clogged the nozzle, Gail Miller thought it was going to explode so he used an ax to cut the nozzle off the hose.  All they could do then was to pinch the end of the hose to squirt water on the fire.

In the winter of 1943-1944, on a Monday evening, a 2 story building owned by Herman Westerman at the southwest corner of Fourth and Main streets burned. There was a family living in the upstairs where the fire started.  Herman had a 1935 Buick that he kept on the lower floor.  The first floor was about 18 inches higher then the ground so he had to use a ramp to run the car inside and out.  When Hermanís son Bob got to the fire he drove the car out of the building without a ramp.  We believe this was the last major fire until the 1948 fire.

As far as known the first fire equipment owned by the village was about a dozen buckets and a forty foot ladder that was hung on the outside of the east wall of Herb Pennyís Chevrolet Garage at 5 West Pike Street.  Sometime in the early 1930ís the ladder and buckets were moved to Delbert Davidsonís garage at 14 North Main Street (current grocery) and hung on the outside.  The ladder is long gone but some of the buckets are still around.

We are not sure if it was 1923 or 1926 when the village purchased a chemical cart for $1,000 from C. H. Sutphen and Son of Columbus Ohio.  The cart was built by ďThe Prospect Fire Engine CompanyĒ at Prospect Ohio.  Most of the time the chemical cart was kept in Davidsonís Garage but for a short time it was kept in the village council meeting room that would be destroyed in the 1948 fire.

Gail Miller was chief for a long time, other who over seen the care of the cart were: Charles Mumford, Cecil Lambart and Harry (Hob) Bright.  The chemical cart was made to be pulled by a car.  It has two 75 gallon tanks, one tank can be used while refilling the other tank.  The tanks are charged and pressurized by mixing soda and acid to water.  In each tank the soda is added to the water and the acid is held in a lead bottle.  The lead bottle has lead caps that just set on the bottles.  A crank on the end of the tank is used to invert the bottle and the cap opens letting the acid into the soda water.  These cranks are also fastened to a mixing bar in the tank.  By moving the crank it speeds up the chemical reaction to create pressure to force the water out of the tanks.

In order to demonstrate the effectiveness of the cart the salesman had a big pile of wood boxes on a vacant lot at Main and First Street.  After the fire was started, the town alarm was sounded.  Gail Miller and others pulled the cart behind a car to the fire and put it out.

There is really no record of how many fires the cart was used on or how many buildings may have been saved by its use.  After the cart was used at the 1948 fire, it was never used again at a fire. 

In the early 1970ís the cart was refinished.  The original hose was cleaned after countless hours and is still on the reel today.  The painted wood wheels were stripped and refinished natural with stripes.  The black iron pipe was replaced with polished brass pipe.  New brass hubs were made for show and the old hub caps are use to transport the cart.  The whole cart was taken apart and repainted with candy apple red then gold leaf striping to set it off.  The project took about 3 years and was done by Paul Jenkins, Mike Sullenberger and Harvey Zimmerman.

These accounts are written with the help of Walter Baker, Hob Bright, Mary Littlejohn, Mel Littlejohn, Bernie Shook, Mike Sullenberger, Kenny Ullery, Roy Wells, Wanda Westerman, Harvey and Ralph Zimmerman.  Written in Summer of 1998.

Goto page 2 to continue reading our fire department history.

 

 

 

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