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Major Fires

1859 - The old red mill belonging to what was then called Elyville on Moose River was destroyed by fire. This structure, aid to have been built by the Fairbanks Company, was used by the Ely How and Fork Works. (Former VT Dowel Site on Concord Ave.)

1860 - July - Fire again destroyed property valued at $5500 at the Ely Works. To reach the place, the fire companies had to drag their engines across the Plain (Main Street) down Sand Hill, through Paddock Village, but the arrived in time to save three important buildings, and won applause fro their prompt and effective performance.

1866 - March 23 - The Railroad Repair Shops were burned with a loss of $75,000. Machine shop, blacksmith and wood shops, with machinery and tools a total loss.

1870 - April 16 - Fire broke out at midnight that destroyed the Colby, Burnham and Woodbury buildings on Railroad street, north of the Randall's block. Loss $17,000. The wind was strong from the south and burning cinders fire roofs on Maple street and dry grass and leaves in Paddock Village. (Lower Pleasant street area)

1876 - Jan. 21 - The Scale Factory Fire - At five o'clock, afternoon, a cinder dropped in to the vat of Japan; the result was a raging fire that threatened destruction of the entire works, the wind blowing a gale from the west. All hydrants, two steam pumps and two engines played streams of water; hundreds of yards of new carpeting from the store were spread over the saw shop, boiler and engine house; on the roof of the benzene magazine hoseman stood five hours battling the flames inch by inch. A special train from Lyndonville brought relay's of fireman. Loss $40,000

1876 - July 1 - The Center Village Fire - On the morning of that day this village consisted of 80 dwellings, three churches, several stores and mills or shops. At noon 27 buildings were in ashes, including the straw board mill, grist mill, flour mill, two stores, one church and the school house -- taking out a third of the village, nearly the entire business center. As there was no telegraph station, a messenger had to drive his horse to the Plain; then the engines were dragged up three miles in the hot sun, the only local apparatus being water pails and wet blankets. $50,000 loss to the village, and numerous left homeless.

1882 - Nov. 3 - The Union School House on Summer street (stood to the right of the former Summer street school), was burned in the early morning hours. The outer walls of two and three layers of brick stood uninjured for the work of reconstruction. Loss $17,000 as well as school record covering 26 years.

1892 - The Great Railroad Street Fire of 1892 - October 27 - On Sunday afternoon the east side of Railroad street was ablaze with flame, drive by a fierce wind from the north. A roaring noise was heard from the basement of Lougee & Smythe's store, then an explosion, then flames fifty feet high from the rear of the building. Within half an hour the entire row of business blocks south were on fire, Drouin's, Caldbeck's, Daniels', Merchants Bank, Ward's, Griswold and Pearls's. Thirty families were burned out, fifteen of them in Ward's block on the corner, (Current site of the Citizens bank.); In the Caldbeck building (Northern Lights Bookstore), two lives were lost. The property loss was figured at $170,000, including the Merchants Bank and 15 stores.

1895 - March 10 - The Pythian Block went down by fire involving a loss of $35,000. It was a new building, erected only the year before. Dense smoke filled the building for two hours before any flames burst out. The fireman devoted all their energies to saving the adjoining buildings. Everything in this block was destroyed, some thirteen parties being occupants; it was rebuilt on the original plan the next year, with the additional feature of solid brick walls.

1896 - Jan. 26 - The Avenue house was destroyed by fire, with a loss of $60,000 and one life. The guests in the building had hardly time to escape through the doors and windows; T.C. Spencer, caught in the corridors, was so injured by the heat that he died the following day. The firemen were on duty twelve hours; they played 17 streams from 13 hydrants, both water systems being turned on. A train from Lyndonville brought 25 men and 1000 ft of hose, which was a welcome reinforcement. The Opera House seemed doomed, for a door left open in the fire wall, the flames made entrance; but they were stubbornly fought and this building (NVDA on Eastern Ave.), as well as the Republican Block was saved.

1907 - Oct. 30 - Citizens Bank Block Fire - In the early morning of October 30, 1907, fire was discovered in the basement, which with rapid progress destroyed the whole interior of this block and cost the lives of nine persons. "It is a small wonder that people awakened out of sleep by the cry of fire in the hall ways, the blowing of engine whistles and the ringing of fire bells should have become bewildered and crazed;" lost their way in the smoke and perished. One woman in night dress only, plunged through smoke and fire that melted celluloid pins in her hair, then ran without shoes for shelter to a house on Cherry street. Guy Cheney hung for twenty minutes form a top window in stifling heat, too high up to be reached by any ladder, till Oscar Hall rushed up the fifty-five foot ladder carrying a shorter one, which he and Harley Caswell held straight up to his feet, and by this narrow margin rescued him. C.T. Ranlet, the well known printer lost his life by falling form a high ladder. The property loss was $50,000.

2000 - Jan. 28 - Daniels Block Fire - 394 Railroad St. - Three men lost their lives and five firefighters were injured in a early morning fire that destroyed the Daniels building on Railroad St. At 12:58 am Fire Alarm received a report of smoke in the building coming from an apartment on the second floor. Engine 3 with firefighters Richard Reed and Mark Harpin responded first due. Upon arrival they found smoke in the hallway on the second floor but no fire. Firefighters worked to evacuate occupants still in the building and search for the fire. They searched floors three and four ordering people out of the building as they went, but did not locate the fire only smoke. Reports from Chief Ruggles indicated the possibility of a fire on the second floor rear. Firefighters Sandy Black, Troy Darby and Ruben Serrano entered the building to assist in the search and met up with the initial crew on the second floor and started searching another apartment. The crew then got a report of a fire floor below them. When the company entered the hallway the encountered a very heavy smoke condition. The firefighters could not see each other and had to hold onto each other and follow a hose line out of the building to escape. The fire was progressing from below and throughout the building. Three people were still in the building and lost their lives as a result of the fire. A total of 7 alarms were transmitted brining in mutual aid from as far away as Newport and Lisbon NH. The fire was contained to the Daniels' block building however collapsing portions of the structure destroyed part of the neighboring buildings. . Firefighters worked in sub zero temperatures for several days to extinguish all the deep seated fire and to recover the victims. Property loss was valued at over $2,000,000.

Accounts of these fires was taken from Fire Department records, as well as from the book The Town of St. Johnsbury, by Edward T. Fairbanks.


 

Town of St. Johnsbury Vermont
Pomerleau Building, 51 Depot Square, Suite 3
Office Phone: 802-748-3926
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