Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Ready to roll from Springfield Fire Headquarters on North Fountain Avenue

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


On the night of Saturday, Jan. 31, 1914, Charles Ashburner, newly installed as Springfield's first city manager, swung his budgetary axe, hacking away at the fire and police departments.

The city dismissed 12 firemen and eight police officers, effective Feb. 1.

Ashburner  announced plans to shutter engine houses No. 2 on Wittenberg Avenue and No. 8 on Yellow Springs Street as well, according to the Feb. 1 edition of the Springfield Daily News, though those closures were later reversed.

(No. 2 was permanently closed in 1932 during the Great Depression; No. 8 remained open until a new station was opened in 1973, though it was briefly closed during the Depression.)

The new city manager, hired to root out political excess, cut debt and modernize municipal finances, justified his decision by saying motorization of the fire department allowed firemen to reach "any part of the city in five minutes or less," the Daily News said.

Ashburner also ordered Fire Chief Samuel Hunter to take up residence and sleep at the Central Engine House.

In all, the fire department's budget was cut by about $12,000 or about $283,000 in 2014 dollars.

Of the men struck from the rolls of the fire department, M.J. Dunn, the longest serving member (appointed 1886), qualified for retirement and pension.

The others didn't.

They were:

Frank Bancroft (appointed 1888)

John Oettlin (appointed 1901)

Daniel O'Neil  (appointed 1903)

Dominick Tracey (appointed 1903)

Daniel Fitzpatrick (appointed 1903)

Frank Moore (appointed 1903)

Joseph Garrett (appointed 1904)

James Dunn (appointed 1905)

Pierce Humphreys (appointed 1908)

Clyde Koontz (appointed 1908)

James Sullivan (appointed 1909)

The cuts weren't by seniority, as others with less time on the job remained, though the men received letters saying they would be recommended for reinstatement should there be any vacancy.

None of them returned.

Bancroft, however, was recommended for pension because of  his health.

The cuts left the fire department with Chief Hunter, seven marshals, a superintendent of fire alarm, four engineers and 29 firemen. (Marshals served as station commanders.)

H.T. Evans, of No.4 engine house on Lagonda Avenue, was reduced in rank. Appointed in 1903, Evans retired in 1923.

No new firemen were hired until l916.

In his first year on the job,  Ashburner reduced Springfield's debt to $40,000 from $120,000, according to the May 24, 1919, edition of A Journal of Democracy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


On May 15, 1929, a fire at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic claimed 123 lives.

The blaze started in the basement where an exposed light bulb ignited nitrocellulose x-ray film, releasing poison gas and triggering a pair of explosions.

Rescuers found evidences of the suddenness with which disaster came to those inside the building on every hand," the Associated Press reported.

Battalion Fire Chief James P. Flynn and his driver, Louis Hillenbrand, dropped a ladder to a fourth-floor landing from the roof and discovered 16 bodies in a stairwell.

"One woman smashed a third floor window and was preparing to leap as firemen spread a life net," AP said. "She stood poised, the amber gas swirled about her shoulders, and she collapsed, falling inside the building."

Ernest Staab, a Cleveland police officer assigned to No. 1 Emergency Wagon, sacrificed his life to make 21 rescues.

Staab "collapsed after carrying out his twenty-first burden" and "followed those he rescued to an emergency cot and died a few hours later," AP said.

 Dr. John Phillips, a founder of the clinic, was another of the dead.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


On Nov. 5, 2014, fire destroyed a historic building housing the Tremont City post office on West Main Street. The mail was spared. “Everything was wet, but I was able to salvage all the mail and all the stamp stock,” Postmaster Brenda Body told the Springfield News-Sun.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

KAR GARD - 1972

Photo: Roberds Collection

It was a difficult job on Oct. 21, 1972,when a 3-alarm fire destroyed the Kar Gard muffler shop at 2100 South Limestone St., Springfield, Ohio.

Firefighters advanced a 2-1/2 inch line onto the roof by ground ladder (photo) but were forced back.

Flames scorched the tip of their ladder before it could be removed.

The roof collapsed and sent parts of the second floor crashing down, according to Capt. Calvin E. Roberds in the book "From Buckets to Diesels."


Photo: Roberds collection

On Nov. 8, 1953, fire struck the Moose Lodge at 32 W. Washington St., Springfield, Ohio.

Engine 8 and Box 27 emergency unit (a former city bus) pictured.

The man standing closet to the "bus" appears to have a camera around his neck. Perhaps he was a newspaper photographer.

The man in the coveralls and what appears to be a helmet standing next to him could be a Box 27 member. Or maybe a representative of the gas or electric utility?

The man in the foreground, of course, is a Springfield firefighter.

Who's the other gent in the fedora? A lodge member? A reporter?

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Retired Springfield Fire Chief Donald Lee died Oct. 20, 2014, according to the Springfield News-Sun.

He was 84.

Lee joined the fire division on Aug. 16, 1956, and served for 41 years.

He was promoted to lieutenant in 1970, captain in 1972, assistant fire chief in 1985 and fire chief in 1989.

During Lee's tenure as chief, the fire division underwent a major re-alignment of personnel and apparatus on Jan. 1, 1995, and acquired its first quint, a combination pumper and ladder truck.

The re-alignment addressed "safety concerns about staffing levels" raised during contract negotiations with the firefighters' union, Lee wrote in the fire division's 1995 annual report.

The plan increased staffing on engine companies and truck companies to a minimum of three per engine and four per truck, without the hiring of additional firefighters.

The quint allowed for the combination of an engine company and truck company, while Engine Co. 1 was placed in reserve and its firefighters were re-assigned to other stations.

In the fire division's 1994 annual report, Lee had requested the hiring of 18 additional firefighters to increase the fire division to "our 1980 manning levels."

Illustrating the severe staffing situation, the 1994 annual report showed just two firefighters assigned to each shift at stations No.3, No. 4 and No. 5.

1995 E-One Quint

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


On Dec. 9, 1930, flames raced through the wooden Avalon Park Dance Pavilion on Auburn Avenue and the roof collapsed by the time the first engines arrived.

Fire crews were hindered by a lack of water and "laid 4,000 feet of hose," according to the Springfield Daily News.

The nearest hydrant was at the corner of Leffel Lane and Clifton Avenue, two blocks away from the pavilion.

"Five fire companies under the command of Assistant Chief Frock did their best to save part of the structure, but without success," the Daily News reported.

The caretaker, S.L. Jones, was heating water and coal oil on the stove and the mixture - used for cleaning the building - exploded, the newspaper said.

The loss was estimated at $27,000. (Adjusted for inflation, that would be $385,000 in 2014 dollars.)

There were no injuries.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


The Springfield Police Division is seeking information on these unsolved arson cases, the earliest of which occurred in 1994.

Early on Aug. 16, 1994, flames engulfed a house at 17 Miller St., Springfield, Ohio Adults dropped children from a second floor window to safety. Nine out of 10 residents survived. However, Avery Bailum, 4, hid beneath his bed where he died. Investigators listed the cause of the fire as arson. A liquid was poured on the porch and set alight. The time of the incident was 6:15 a.m.

On Aug. 13, 2002, Dennis Wade, 47, was set alight while sleeping on the porch of 423 West High St. , Springfield, Ohio. He died of his injuries on  Aug. 21. Wade said someone poured fluid on him. The time of the incident was about 4 a.m.

On May 9, 2008, fire broke out at 1805 Sweetbriar Lane South, Springfield, Ohio. Inside, firefighters found the remains of Alia Hartman, 25. Investigators ruled the death a homicide. The time of the incident was about 12:35 a.m.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


It was one of Ohio's deadliest fires.

Flames ripped through the Golden Age Nursing Home in northern Ohio, before dawn on Nov. 23, 1963.

Sixty-three people perished.

The fire 
received little notice at the time because President John F. Kennedy was assassinated a day earlier in Dallas.

Nursing home safety standards were lax and antiquated and the blaze led to major reforms.

There were no sprinklers and no manual fire alarms.

Patients were restrained to their beds.

Others were trapped behind wheelchairs too wide for the exits.

Even so, 21 patients survived along with three staff members.

The nursing home was located north of Fitchville, a village near New London.

Trucker Henry Dahman, of Sarber, Pa., reported the fire at 5 a.m. as he drove north along Route 250, according to the Mansfield News-Journal.

Flames were shooting from the roof and walls, he told firemen.

New London firemen reached the scene at 5:10 a. m.

North Fairfield firemen arrived at 5:30 a. m.

Many others followed.

"The place was on fire from one end to the other," New London Chief Al Walters said.

Investigators determined the cause was electrical in nature.

Recalling the fire, Fitchville Township trustee Robert White, who was in eighth grade at the time, told the Sandusky Register: “First JFK was killed, then the fire. It was horrible.”

Today, all that remains at the site is a historical marker.

Golden Age Nursing Home Fire
Located one mile north of Fitchville, the Golden Age Nursing Home caught fire and burned to the ground at 4:45 a.m., November 23, 1963, killing 63 of 84 patients.

Fire departments from New London, Greenwich, North Fairfield, and Plymouth responded.

Ignited by the arcing of overloaded wiring, the incident called for action to require sprinklers, automatic fire detection systems, and electrical wiring compliance to building codes in all nursing homes.

The worst tragedy of its kind in the nation, the incident was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and was not widely reported.

Twenty-one unclaimed bodies were interred in a 60-foot grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Norwalk.

Link to report on fire response

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


TOP: Duplex fire on Orth Drive, New Carlisle, Clark County, Nov. 9, 2013 (WDTN photo). MIDDLE: On May 27, 2013, firefighters attempted to rescue farmer from grain bin along Lower Valley Pike, west of Springfield. The farmer succumbed to his injuries. (Bethel Township Fire Dept.) BOTTOM: Four people died in house fire on Craig Drive, Kettering, Montgomery County, Dec. 11, 2013. (ABC22)