This February 15, 1900, newspaper article, about a catastrophic St. Paul Fire, makes us appreciate our present-day firefighting capability.
The February 15, 1900, issue of the St. Paul Journal described a disastrous late-night fire that destroyed eight downtown business and nearly killed one of our citizens. Early attempts by volunteer firefighters, to fight the fire via a bucket brigade, were proving to be futile. That is when a trained fire company from Parsons was called in to support the locals. The fire company arrived on a special train and was able to contain the fire before it spread across an alley and to other businesses. The article mentions, in passing, that much of the damage might have been prevented if St. Paul had a fire company of its own. The $40,000 loss, adjusted for time, would have equaled more than $1.3 million today.
We have come a long way since 1900 — especially during the past few years. We have a very well-equipped volunteer fire department with headquarters at the corner of Central and Main. The facility is central to Mission Township and occasionally travels outside of the township limits to assist other departments. Recent efforts, including grant activity, have added technology such as updated communications, a larger radio tower, thermal imaging cameras and training that the 1900 Parsons brigade could never imagine. Thanks to the thermal imaging technology, a recent residential structure fire was stopped in its tracks before it could destroy the home.
Read the Article:
The Journal article was on two pages. "Click to enlarge" does not work well with these old microfilm images. But you can click below to download and view each image in a new window. It should work well on a phone or tablet.
Where Was the Fire?
It took a while to figure out where the fire was. But clues from the Journal article and an 1899 Sanborne fire insurance map, helped me figure it out.
Some Reference Information:
1. Top Photo. The banner illustration at the top of the page is from two photos. The background is a photo of our existing Mission Township Fire Department building taken by local photographer Kent Davis — KD Shots. The inset is from the Cumberland Valley site discussed in "2" below.
2. An Early Volunteer Fire Department. The arrival of the Parsons Fire Department, by train, seemed strange to me. After doing some research, it appears it was not common but did occur. Today, rail-based firefighting is fairly common for large wildfires and some forest fire fighting. Here are a couple of links about modern rail firefighting. Both will open in a new window.
During my digging, I came across the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association website. The association was formed in 1901 for the purpose of adopting a uniform hose coupling and to develop a mutual aid system, among volunteer departments, along the Cumberland Valley Railroad. It is a neat story, and the site provided the inset photo for the banner picture at the top of the page. The link below takes you to their About Us page and you can look around the site from there, if you like. https://cvvfa.org/about-us/
Thoughts 'n Things
Some 'Thoughts' and short articles about past and present-day St. Paul and the Southern Kansas - 4 State Region.