Radnor Fire Company: responds to trolley & train crashes, 1951-1952 report, Radnor High School boys training to fill spots of firemen gone to WWII

The report of Edwin J. Clark, chief of the Radnor Fire Company for the year extending from April 1, 1951 to April 1, 1952, shows that in that period of time 608 calls were answered by the Company. Of these, 279 were fire calls and 329 were those for the ambulance.

The fire trucks travelled a total of 2,907 miles answering calls, that in variety ran all the way from the Ryan and Christie fire in Bryn Mawr to a “cat in the tree” and “birds in the chimney” as these last two calls are listed in the report.

The men went out in all sorts of weather, including 24 rainstorms and eight snowstorms. And while 201 of these calls came in form 6 A. M. to 6 P. M., 78 of them came between 6 P. M. to 6 A. M. Average hours of service were 217 1/2 for each fireman. With the exception off one full time employee who lives at the Fire House to receive incoming calls, none of the active firemen receives any compensation.

Responding to the multiple fire alarm for the Ryan and Christie fire, Radnor men and apparatus arrived in Bryn Mawr at 8:00 o’clock on Wednesday evening, February 28, 1951, and remained through the bitter cold of that winter night on until 11:00 o’clock Thursday morning. Dense smoke, with little flame, made the work of the firemen difficult from the beginning. Some 30 men from the various companies were overcome by smoke, while one Bryn Mawr fireman died a few days later as a result of the injuries he sustained. Throughout the night and early morning fire ambulances, including Radnor’s, stood by, ready for any emergency that would necessitate a run to nearby Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Two disastrous accidents in 1951 brought out the Radnor Fire Company, the first on April 26, when an East-bound and a West-bound trolley met in a head-on collision just west of Wayne-St. Davids trolley station. The second occurred on May 16, when the “Red Arrow” train of the Pennsylvania Railroad plowed intuit he Philadelphia Night Express west of Bryn Mawr station. Radnor firemen, arriving without delay on the scene of the first accident, freed the seven seriously injured passengers from the wreckage and within half an hour’s time had all of them in Bryn Mawr Hospital by way of their own ambulance and those from Berwyn and Paoli.

At the Pennsylvania Railroad wreck, which resulted in the death of eight persons and the injury of 60 more, three Radnor fire trucks with the ambulance were on duty for hours, the former assisting with the work of rescue and the latter with the transportation of injured to the Bryn Mawr Hospital. They were but one of many such groups that responded to the emergency call. Thus far in 1952, the two most serious fires to which Radnor has been called have been that at Dr. McFarland’s Paoli home, which resulted in a loss of about $25,000, and the Smith warehouse fire in West Chester, with a loss of $100,000 or more.

In discussing the matter of training volunteers for their important work of firefighting and rescue, Mr. Clark says that not only does he have no difficulty in obtaining these men, but that usually there is a waiting list for any possible vacancies that may occur. Once admitted to the Fire Company, there is a six months’ period of probation before final acceptance. Also, for three months no new fireman is permitted to go into a fire unless accompanied by an old-timer.

In the meantime, there are fire drills for new and old firemen alike. From April 1 until October 1 these are of weekly occurrence, while from October 1 until April 1 they are held monthly. Much of the technique of the newest methods of fire fighting is acquired at the Fire School held in Lewistown each year by the Pennsylvania Department of PublicInstruction. Radnor Fire Company endeavors to send one or more representatives to each session, Chief Clark himself rarely missing one.

At the local fire drills  not only these newest techniques are taught but amateur firemen learn all ladder practices, including the proper raising, carrying and climbing of ladders. From discarded lumber a two story house has been erected on the old sewage plant on Ivan avenue. Here firemen are taught the putting out of blazes by fog methods, and techniques of rescue.

For the latter a smudge fire is usually started in the frame building, and somewhere in the depths of it, most often on the second floor, a dummy is hidden. Wearing masks and carrying a litter, firemen are trained to find and to rescue this dummy, just as they may be called upon to rescue persons overcome by smoke. Other fire drills, pertaining to the proper use of ladders, have been held on the outside of the Wayne Primary School building from time to time.

First Aid training is also given though a great deal of the knowledge comes through actual experience on the ambulance. Those who attend the Fire School in Lewistown receive courses in advanced first aid.

Due to the fact that several of the active firemen were called into the service following America’s entry into World War II in December, 1941, a number of High School boys were trained as active firemen to take their places. Well does the writer remember the pride her own son took in this assignment, the discipline and the training, which were to serve him in such good stead less than a year later when he, too, entered the service.

The first group of boys to be trained consisted of Malcolm Murphy, Davis Washburn, Joe Young, Carter Lippincott, Jack Fogarty, George Ott, Tom Mell, Bill Clark and Bill Patterson. There have been many others since then, each in turn considering it a great honor to be chosen. At present the group is limited each year to six senior class boys, who must have special releases from the school as well as written permission from parents. While they are firemen, they are not allowed to participate in any school sports. They may leave any and all classes at the first sound of the siren, and run to the Fire House, which conveniently adjoins the High School. They have, according to Chief Clark, proved of invaluable assistance, especially for daytime fires.

Exclusive of these six school boys, the total crew numbers 33 men, headed by “Eddie” Clark, who has been Fire Chief for the past 20 years. Leslie D. Wilkins, who is not only the chief engineer, but the secretary of the company, has served in the latter capacity for 17 years. Both men are sons of charter members of the company.

Assistant Chiefs are James Kane, Wells Walker and Edward Gallagher, Jason L. Fenimore is president of the Company; William M. Zimmermann, Jr., vice-president; Arthur T. Stillwell, treasurer. Directors are Hon. Benjamin F. James, Ralph Robson, Harry Simes, Grover Lengel, Rocco A. Odorisio, Harry Campbell, Jr., and John Ferguson.

The Fire Company’s budget is met each year by a certain amount derived from taxes, by contribution from the Township Board of Commissioners and yearly dues varying from three dollars for annual membership to $25 for sustaining members. The company has recently been the recipient of funds derived from the Wayne Rotary Basketball Tournament, and the Lions Main Line Charity Ball, to be held on Friday evening, April 18, will be for their benefit. These funds will be used for maintenance expenses. Among the most needed pieces of new equipment are a smoke ejector, two 500-gallon capacity fog nozzles, new ladders, two “walkie-talkie” radio sets and additional radio equipment. Other desirable additions would be two more portable oxygen units and a modern and a portable pump unit which would make it possible to draw water from a distance of 500 feet, at the rate of 250-300 gallons each minute.

It has often been said partly in jest, partly in earnest, that “you don’t have to be half crazy to be a volunteer fireman, but it helps an awful lot.” Residents of Radnor township, however, like better the definition of a volunteer fireman as given by Judge MacDade, when he described the former as “one who lives as close to the Ten Commandments as any human being can . . . for who else would get up in the middle of a cold winter’s night to help his neighbor?”


Radnor Fire Company: building history, equipment, members, ambulances

The present building which houses the Radnor Fire Company looks very different from that first small one built in 1890 by the Wayne Public Safety Association, although, as a matter of fact, the latter is incorporated in the former. This original fire house is the square, two story northeastern section of the building which has the caretaker’s quarters downstairs and the assembly room upstairs. When it housed the horse drawn engine it had an entrance both onto Audubon avenue and onto the open field in the back. Each doorway was wide enough for the firemen to drive the fire engines through.

Soon after the acquisition of the two automobile engines in the early nineteen hundreds, the first building was moved backward on the lot and a front section added, retaining, however, the tower which still remains on top of the building. Then in 1936, another addition and some further improvements were made, including alterations to the front which made possible the small upstairs balcony and changed the appearance of the front of the building. In the course of various improvements, the original frame part was encased in brick, making for greater uniformity of appearance.

When the ambulance was purchased in 1947, it was at first crowded into this building as it was at that time. However, in 1948, the addition to the south was built as a means of more adequately accommodating the ambulance, as well as one of the five fire engines now in use by the Radnor Fire Company.

The front upstairs room is used for recreational purposes while the back room is used for the monthly meeting of the Fire Company. Close inspection of the fioor shows marks where desks were once screwed down when this room was used some fifty years or more ago as one of the class rooms for the Radnor Public Schools. The gavel on the long table in the present room is in the shape of a wooden block on the side of which is a silver plate inscribed with the names of the various presidents from that of William W. Hearne, who took office, down to Jason L. Fenimore, the present incumbent.

Mr. Hearne, who held office until 1911, was succeeded by Eugene C. Bonniwell whose term extended until 1914, when Mr. Hearne again took office until 1917. Jonathan D. Lengel was president from 1917 to 1921; Charles E. Clark from 1921 to 1925; Charles M. Wilkins from 1925 to 1928; Ira V. Hale from 1928 to 1930; David H. Henderson from 1930 to 1947 and John J. McGovern from 1947 to 1951, when Mr. Fenimore took office. Meetings are called to order by striking the bell now hanging on the wall, originally the one which clanged its way to all fires from the front of company’s first motorized fire engine. Incidentally, this first engine was smashed on its way to a fire, Charles Clark tells your columnist, instead of rusting away on the vacant lot back of Lienhardt’s as stated in this column. However, the second engine did meet this fate when instead it might have been preserved by the Waterous Company who wished to put it on exhibition in their St. Paul plant.

Leslie D. Wilkins, secretary of the Fire Company for a number of years past, as well as its chief engineer, tells us that the present system of sirens was installed in the early 1920’s. During the first years of the original fire company, a big iron rim from a locomotive wheel had its permanent place in front of the fire house. This rim was struck by a hammer when a fire alarm came in. The noise was so resounding that it could be heard pretty well around the town, thus calling the firemen into action. Even as far back as 1906, the Fire Company kept a man on 24 hour duty, one of the first of these watchers being “Old Dad Watson”, a tall colored man still remembered by many people in Wayne. There was always a telephone in the firehouse and the telephone operator called the firemen at their homes.

Prior to the time of the installation of the present siren system, the loud whistle on the top of the steam heat plant gave the signal for firemen to assemble. In summer when the plant shut down it was necessary for a time to ring a bell. Mr. Wilkins well remembers the small auxiliary bell at the side of his father’s house on Aberdeen avenue which notified all the firemen in that neighborhood of any fire. Eventually a group of women in the town got together and planned for a “Tag Day”, when they stood on street corners and sold tags with small whistles attached, thus starting the fund for the purchase of a siren. After the permanent discontinuation of the steam heat plant a few years ago, it became necessary to depend entirely on the present siren system, although up to that time the siren at the plant was always used in winter for serious fires.

One of the most unusual undertakings of the Radnor Fire Company was their trip to Louisville, Ky., in February, 1937, to aid in relief work made necessary by the flooding of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, following heavy rains. Those who went were Charles E. Clark and his son, Edwin J. Clark, the present fire chief, James Kain and James Conway. With Louisville as their ultimate destination, they went as far as Harrisburg in the fire engine which they were taking from Wayne. Then a special train was provided for all the equipment which had been volunteered from various sections as well as the firemen to man these engines. They entered the flooded area at Indianapolis, from which point on the going was tedious and difficult.

Once arrived in LouIsville they found themselves installed in a warehouse of the American Tobacco Company where, along with all the rest of the volunteer firemen from Pennsylvania they were under the able direction of Chief Deen, of the Lancaster (Pa.) Fire Department. Of these volunteers, the men from Radnor were the only ones from a district smaller than a third class city. Conditions everywhere were bad with many buildings afloat and many people trapped by fire and water. Among the many strange sights was that of a huge Ohio River steamboat stranded in the center of a golf course.

(To be concluded)

Villanova College fires

In the past forty years, Villanova College has expeienced three costly and disastrous fires, the first of which, occurring on January 10, 1912, was described in this column in the issue of February 21. This was in St. Rita’s Hall, oldest building in the college group, occupied at the time by students preparing for the priesthood.

The second occurred 16 years later to the very month, on January 29, 1928, when College Hall burned to the ground with an estimated loss of about two million dollars.

Like the day of the first fire, this was one of bitter cold, added to on this occasion by a 20-mile-an hour wind which quickly fanned the first flames into an all-consuming blaze. Five minutes after the alarm was sounded the Radnor Fire Company had arrived from one direction and the Bryn Mawr Company from the other. Within short order 12 other companies were on the scene, including Philadelphia Company No. 65, from 64th and Haverford avenue.

But even by the time of arrival of the first two companies, College Hall was a roaring furnace. Five minutes later the fifth fioor crashed down through the well of the building into the first fioor even as the Radnor firemen were going up the steps of College Hall, to lay a hose line. Fortunately there were no lives lost, though several of the men were injured.

By this time James K. Dunne, who as chief of the Radnor Fire Company was directing the work of all the companies, saw that it was impossible to save College Hall or its contents. He then directed the efforts of all the men to the adjoining monastery, which the high wind was now placing in grave danger of destruction.

Although there was no serious lack of water on the occasion the cold was so bitter that many of the firemen had frost bitten fingers from handling the heavy, highpressured hose. After some hours of hard work during which 12 streams pumped thousands of gallons of water on the blaze in College Hall, this inferno of fire was under control. None of the adjoining buildings on the campus suffered at all, due to the heroic work of the 14 fire companies.

Temporary housing for the students who had been living in College Hall was immediately provided while plans were being made for another College Hall, with new equipment to replace the old.

The third fire occurred some four and a half years later in August, 1932. (In the last issue your columnist stated by mistake that this was the second fire, and gave the date as August 1925.) Although it was vacation time for the regular students, summer school was in session with a good number in attendance.

The fire which started in the room of one of the students in the Monastery at about 11 o’clock in the morning gained headway with alarming rapidity. The laboratory assistant who first discovered the blaze immediately rushed into the office of Father Joseph M. Dougherty shouting “Fire” at the top of his lungs. The cry was taken up on all sides, echoing from end to end of the high building. Father Dougherty not only turned in the alarm, but immediately started to supervise the work of salvage.

Four nearby fire engines responded at once, Radnor, Berwyn, Bryn Mawr and Lower Merion. They were quickly followed by all the other fire companies from Bala Cynwyd to Paoli, as well as those from West Chester, Darby and Haverford Township, and even by two from Philadelphia.

As in the fire of 1928, Chief Dunne was in charge of co-ordlnating the work of all the companies since the fire was in the Radnor township district. In spite of the great number of firemen and of fite equipment, it was difficult to combat the blaze because of the shortage in the water supply. There were only three fire hydrants in the immediate vicinity in addition to two private ones on the campus. Although hose lines were stretched half a mile to Township Line road where there were a number of fire plugs, the main part of the Monastery was doomed by the time these additional streams were in operation. Chief Dunne’s first orders had been to fight the flames on the fourth floor of the west wing. In order to do this hose lines were taken up the broad stairway and despite the intense heat and the danger from falllng timbers and partitions the Radnor men stuck it out, confining the fire in this wing to the fourth floor. Several of the Radnor flremen were injured, among them Clarence Barber, who was buried under a falling partition. Chief Dunne was badly cut on the nose and face, while among others injured were assistant chief Eddie Clark, Thoroas F. Dunne, Hugh Dietrich, John Snyder, John J. McGovern, John J. McDermott and John Wood. Many flremen from other companies were also injured to a greater or lesser degree; the total numbering about 60. Several men were removed to Bryn Mawr Hospital, while the greater number were treated on the grounds by ambulance crews from St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital, and Conshohocken Hospital, as well as from Bryn Mawr.

The blaze had been raging for only about half an hour when it became apparent that the towers and cupolas of the monastery were about to collapse. Captain Lafferty, of the Radnor Township. Police immediately ordered a space of 200 feet cleared in front of the building. And it was only shortly thereafter that the roof caved in. By noon the top floors had all been destroyed. And when by 3 o’clock the blaze had been virtually extinguished, “the monastery presented the picture of a charred and blackened shell, with only the walls of the three lower fioors left standing.” Among the few precious objects in the building to be saved were the charter of Pope Pius VI, signed in 1796 authorizing the founding of the College by the Augustinian Order; the Blessed Sacrament from the Chapel and a very few paintings from the famous Doyle collection. All these had been carried out by the summer students until they were halted by the firemen because of danger of this work of rescue.
Adding to the terrific confusion of the fire itself, motorists from miles around, who had been attracted by the dense columns of smoke, clogged the roads in all directions on the day of the fire. And even as late as the Sunday following the fire, the service of four Radnor police officers were required to keep traffic lanes open to travel in the vicinity of the college.

In spite of the staggering loss of its faculty building, Villanova went ahead with its registration plans for September 15. Student dormitories and class room facilities were in no way touched by the conflagration. And the clerical faculty could be housed in temporary quarters around the campus until such a time as sufficient funds could be raised for a new monastery. And thus in spite of two fires in less than five years with losses totalling several millions of dollars Villanova College planned to carry on as before.

Property losses from Fireworks Company explosion, Canteen of the Wayne Red Cross Branch, the Neighborhood League, Devon Baby Clinic, Relief Fund

Property losses from the disastrous explosion at the Pennsylvania Fireworks Company of Devon in April, 1930, were widespread, the largest individual one being that at the Benjamin C. Betner Paper Box Manufacturing Company on Lancaster Pike, about a quarter of a mile distant from the explosion.

Here the entire interior of the plant was wrecked, with a loss of many thousands of dollars. Forty employees were injured, including the driver of a truck who was taking in a load of bags at the plant. He was knocked unconscious by the first blast, remaining so for some hours afterwards.

The offices of the C. A. Lobb Lumber Yard were ruined, while the plate glass windows of the handsome show rooms of the Packard Motor Company were completely shattered. Mrs. Charles M. Lea’s mansion, in Devon, was damaged to the extent of about $50,000.

Other nearby Devon homes that felt the full force of the explosion were Mrs. William McCone’s, located within a couple of hundred yards of the plant, which was wrecked beyond repair; the Stephen Fuguet and the Victor Thomas homes. The walls of the old Devon Inn, which had survived the fire of a year before when the building was occupied by the Valley Forge Military Academy, were blown down by the force of the fireworks blast. All of the small houses just opposite the scene of the explosion were so badly damaged that they had to be razed to the ground, as were seven large residences on Old Lancaster road.

Personal accidents were numerous, including one to Constable George Morris, who was struck in the stomach by a concrete block blown through the window of his house near the plant as he sat at breakfast. Roma Torillo, a barber in the shop of Nick Irete, a quarter of a mile from the explosion, was injured when a door was blown down. The clock in the shop stopped at 9:50, the time of the first explosion.

By some vagary the large greenhouses of Alfred M. Campbell, located in nearby Strafford, escaped damage except for a few broken panes of glass. Large windows in the stores of J. S. McIntyre and John Donato as well as the Wayne Lunch Room, all located on North Wayne avenue in Wayne, were shattered. Small pieces of the red paper used in the wrapping of fireworks, torpedoes and small bombs, were picked up afterwards at points as far distant as Norristown.

When the last of the minor explosions that followed the major one was over, the work of relief and rehabilitation immediately started. Indeed, while confusion was still at its height, Mrs. Alda Makarov, secretary of the Neighborhood League of Wayne, collected all the homeless children and took them to the Neighborhood League House on West Wayne avenue, where they were fed and cared for during that entire day. And within an hour of the time of the explosion the Devon Branch of the Needlework Guild was on the scene, distributing garments to those who had lost everything.

Although the Fire Works Company plant was situated in Tredyffrin township, it was nevertheless in the territory covered by both the Wayne Red Cross Branch and the Neighborhood League. It was at the Devon Baby Clinic of the latter organization that relief headquarters were set up almost before the sounds of the last explosion were heard. Here, under Mrs. E. W. S. Tingle, chairman of the Canteen of the Wayne Red Cross, food and hot coffee were served without cessation for more than 24 hours to destitute families, as well as to members of the State Constabulary who were on duty. The clinic also served as a registration center, always a most important spot in time of disaster.

Among other groups who assisted in the work of relief were Anthony Wayne Post of the American Legion and its Auxiliary. The women who composed the latter opened headquarters in North Wayne, which they had heated and ready for use almost immediately. The Wayne Chamber of Commerce took as their special project the housing of furniture removed from wrecked homes. The Men’s Club, the Saturday Club and both Girl and Boy Scout troops all did their part, also.

Red Cross disaster workers sent from National Headquarters in Washington estimated $40,000 as the minimum required for the proper care of sufferers from the explosion. With expenses of administration taken care of by National Red Cross, every dollar contributed by the community could go to direct relief. Hearts and pocketbooks from far and near opened wide to the appeal almost before it was made. By the time the April 11 edition of “The Suburban” had gone to press, contributions of more than $16,000 had already been received. Before the end of April this had reached a total of more than $36,000, with more still to come. J. S. C. Harvey, of Radnor, was made the chairman of this relief fund.

Less than a year before the explosion, the Wayne Red Cross Branch had organized a Disaster Relief Committee to operate in any calamity that might occur in the district covered by the Branch. Thomas W. Hulme, then president of the Township Commissioners, was chairman of this committee with its various subcommittees, among them those on food, shelter, registration and finances.

Among the first people on the scene of the disaster were Mr. Hulme and Mrs. Willlam Henry Brooks, at that time chairman of the Wayne Red Cross. Colonel Horace A. Shelmlre, chairman of the Housing Committee of the Disaster Relief, arrived shortly with a hundred army cots and a number of blankets from the Quartermaster’s Department of the U. S. Marine Corps. These cots were put up in various homes where the homeless had been welcomed.

This then was the beginning of immediate relief work, which was not to end for many months. Families had to be re-united, food and clothing provided, and long range plans made for rehabilitation which included replacement of clothing, homes and furnishings.

Almost the first task at hand was the difficult one of clearing grounds of such explosive materials as still remained. This was work that had to be done by men especially qualified by experience in dealing with various types of explosives. During this period the property was thoroughly policed and all would-be trespassers or curiosity seekers warned to stay away.

The fireworks plant was never rebuilt, and in the 22 years that have elapsed the entire appearance of the area has changed to such an extent that little or no trace remains of the tragedy. The site is reached by taking a right turn onto Conestoga road just after going under the overpass of the P. & W. at Strafford. After a short distance one comes tb a large plot of ground on the right where building lots are being sold and small houses erected. Already one ranch type house has been completed at the extreme western edge of the old fireworks company site, and other houses are under construction.

(To be continued)

1930 Pennsylvania Fireworks Company explosion & inquest, Valley Forge Military Academy cadets help police

In recounting the earlier fires in this section, no roster of them would be complete without the story of the Devon disaster of April, 1930, when fire itself was but an aftermath of the terrific explosion that rocked the countryside for miles around. It was the worst calamity ever to hit the Main Line up to that time, and certainly there have been none to equal it since then.

The plant of the Pennsylvania Fireworks Company, located on the Old Lancaster Pike in Devon, had long been a community menace. It was located in a thickly settled area. Large quantities of black powder and other explosives were stored on the premises, as was a big supply of many varieties of finished firecrackers. Gas stoves were used in heating the plant and there were gas jets in the drying room.

At the inquest, the Coroner’s jury gave one or more of these factors as the probable cause of the explosion. They urged the enactment of legislation at Harrisburg “to cover the manufacture of fireworks, taking into consideration the location of plants and quantity of raw and finished material to be carried at anyone time. . . also providing for frequent and rigid inspection of such plants.”

But such legislation would be too late then to save the lives of the ten employees who were killed, among them four children under 16 years of age. Less than a year before, Mrs. AIda A. Makarov, secretary of the Neighborhood League, had written to the Bureau of Inspection of the Department of Labor and Industry at Harrisburg, stating that on inspection they had found only two girls employed, and both of these were over 18 years of age. The remaining five employees were men over 21, they stated. Nevertheless, four of the explosion casualties were children less than 16 years old, among them possibly the only person or persons who knew the exact cause of the disaster.

The force and the roar of the heavy detonation of the explosion when it came on that Thursday morning of April 3, 22 years ago this spring, was felt for miles around, particularly to the eastward. One of the peculiar features was that while some homes only a half-mile or so west of the plant were undamaged, others in a five mile area to the east felt the force of the explosion to greater extent.

Automobiles and pedestrians converged on Devon from all directions, hampering the work of fire men and of other rescue workers. “The Suburban” of the day following the explosion describes the scene as viewed from a nearby hilltop as one “of terrible destruction . . . flames enveloped several small buildings near the plant scattered over a ten-acre plot of ground . . . the noise of exploding fireworks and the bombs reminded one of the Argonne. . . a dense pall of smoke hung over the valley, lighted up by constantly flashing minor explosions. A third great blast endangered the lives of firemen fighting the conflagration and caused the watching crowd to flee to safety.

The Pennsylvania Railroad signal tower at Devon was directly in the line of destruction, while the overhead wires were all down across the tracks. The signal man himself was thrown out of his chair. Max Swartz, signalman in the Eagle tower (near Strafford) was severely hurt, but stuck to his post until relief came.

Fire companies from all along the Main Line made record runs to the scene, the Radnor Company being among the first to arrive. Actual fire was confined to the buildings of the fireworks plant, and to a number of automobiles parked around it. The explosion, however, scattered burning debris over a wide area, and numerous field fires added to the difficulties of the firemen. All the firemen on the scene of the fire itself repeatedly risked their lives I in the inferno of blazing fireworks.

The immediate area was cordoned off and the State police and the Radnor township police, assisted by cadets from the Valley Forge Military Academy, patrolled the danger zone. On all sides private cars were commandeered to assist the ambulances in rushing, the injured to Bryn Mawr Hospital. Hospital doctors, as well as those residing nearby, were on the scene to give first aid treatment as were a number of nurses. The Wayne Red Cross canteen went into immediate action under Mrs. E. W. S. Tingle, serving hot coffee to the firemen and other rescuers.

(To be continued)

Opera House (Lyceum Hall) fire, Post Master Milton J. Porter, Welsh & Parks Hardware Store, more fires, The George Clay Fire Company

In the early morning hours of December 30, 1914, Wayne experienced its worst fire since the one that in March, 1900, burned the Bellevue Hotel to the ground. This time the conflagration was in another of Wayne’s early landmarks, the Opera House, built in the early 1870’s on ground donated by Henry Askin, one of the founders of this suburban community.

The building known as Lyceum Hall, when it was first erected, was originally used for lectures, debates and amateur theatricals. In 1889 the Wayne Estate enlarged the small stage, adding a new proscenium and scene shifts. At about this same time the third floor was renovated to serve as quarters for Wayne Lodge No. 581, F. and A. Masons, which was instituted there in 1890.

Then again in 1903 the building itself was remodeled and enlarged, provision being made at that time for the housing of the Wayne Post Office. Thereafter, it became the center of community activities for Wayne with the Euterpean concerts and other events of sociaJ and musical interest being given there. And not long before the time of the fire, the Messrs. Allen began to show their moving pictures at the Opera House, that being the flrst motion picture theater in Wayne.

The fire of December, 1914, started in the second story of the Gas Company’s office next door to the Opera House at about 1:30 in the morning. A call to the Radnor Police Department brought a quick response by the two engines of the Radnor Fire Company. Otis Hunsicker recalls that the first fire engine to be built by the Hale Company was in the shop, complete except for paint. So dire was the need for it that it was called into use just as it was, soon after the onset of the fire. In addition, a hurry call was sent to Berwyn, Devon, Bryn Mawr and Merion No. 1, aIthough the latter did not actually get into service.

At one time eight streams of water were playing on the fire, which soon worked its way up under the eaves of the Opera House, where it could not effectively be reached by the firemen because of the height of the building. Indeed, a number of firemen had a narrow escape from death on the top floor of the building when the “back draft” so much dreaded by all fire fighters, exploded. Dense clouds of smoke nearly asphyxiated these men before they could reach the steps.

Milton J. Porter, who was postmaster at that time, with the help of his employees and of volunteers, saved not only all the moveable furniture in the post office section of the Opera House, but also all mail, stamps and records. Miss H. Ada Detterline, of the post office force, had a miraculous escape from death when she was struck by a falling cornice and severely injured as she was assisting in the removal of these records. Temporary quarters were immediately set up in the Wayne Title and Trust building, and by 11:00 o’clock the following morning the outgoing mail was gotten off.

Practically the entire stock of the Welsh and Park Hardware Store was ruined by water. Less than two hours after the onset of the fire, Mr. Welsh had leased a vacant store in Union Hall and by noon had given an order to the Supplee-Biddle Company in Philadelphia for new stock, the first load of which was brought out by Herbert George in his truck that evening.

The Allens moved their motion pictures to St. Katharine’s Hall, where they were shown for some time thereafter. Their screen and piano were burned up in the fire, although the motion picture machine was saved. Andrew J. Martin, of the Wayne Plumbing and Heating Company, estimated their loss at about $3,000, with a large quantity of tools destroyed and the main office and cellar flooded by water. In the Gas Company’s office all the papers and records of John L. Mather were destroyed. These records covered his entire term of service with the Electric Light Company and the Wayne Steam Heat Company, as well as with the U. G. I. However, books of the company were in the fireproof safe.

Wendell and Treat estimated their loss at about $30,000, while the Wayne Lodge suffered a loss of some $2,000 in the way of furniture and fixtures. That the office of the Wayne Estate was saved was due to the good work of Charles R. Kennedy and of Otis Hunsicker.

According to the account of this spectacular fire as given in “The Suburban” of January 1, 1915, “nearly everyone in Wayne and St. Davids was there. . . all fire companies did fine service with especial credit due to the Hale Motor Company engine in charge of Charles J. Young.” The slate roof of the Presbyterian Church next door to the Opera House was probably the only thing that saved it from destruction since a continuous shower of sparks swept that way. Indeed, that anything in the general vicinity was saved seems miraculous in view of the limited fire fighting facilities of Wayne and its neighboring communities in 1914 as compared to those of the present.

Among the smaller, but yet important fires of the period when Wayne had but the two fire engines, was that on the G. L. Warner place, a short distance from Martin’s Dam, when in March, 1913, the barn was completely destroyed although all the horses and cattle were saved. When the alarm was sounded Chief Wilkins with Guy Hallowell., E. J. Wendell and Otis Hunsicker made a quick run in Mr. Wendell’s automobile.

When they found the barn a complete mass of fiames on their arrival they immediately set to work to save the rest of the buildings. The first step in this direction was to build a dam across a small creek that ran near the barn, using fence ralls, stones and sod in its construction. When the rest of the firemen got there they found plenty of water for their pump. in this dam. For three hours Chief Wilkins with 15 of his men worked successfully to save the surrounding buildings.

The first big residential fire after the acquisition of the two automobile engines was that of the Edward A. Schmidt residence at Radnor in September, 1909. The nearest water was from a lily pond about 900 feet from the house. When the pumps had exhausted that supply their chemical apparatus was brought into play, putting the fire under control after two or three hours’ time.

On the way to the Isaac H. Clothier, Jr. estate in the bitter cold weather of November, 1917, both of the Radnor engines broke down. However, they eventually joined the Bryn Mawr Fire Company, the Merion Fire Company, and the George W. Clay Company from Conshohocken at the scene of the destruction of the old fashioned stable where the flames spread so quickly that a number of prize winning hunters and a pony belonging to the Clothier children perished in the flames.

A few months later, in May, 1918, I the Radnor Fire Company was called to the J. J Kearsley Mitchell place on Spring Mill road, where the garage, which also housed the chauffeur’s family, was already a mass of flames when they arrived. Despite their most valiant efforts the 16-months-old baby of the chauffeur was burned to death in sight of several of the Wayne firemen, who got ladders up to the I room in which the crib stood, only to be beaten back by the violence of the flames. Together the George Clay Fire Company and the Radnor Fire Company pieced out 2000 feet of hose to stretch to a pond from which they pumped water in relays in order to save several greenhouses and other buildings, since there was no other water on the hilltop on which these buildings were located.

(To Be Continued)

Villanova College fires, Elmer Stable fire

The first of three disastrous fires which Villanova College has experienced within the past 40 years occurred on January 10, 1912. Many of the dramatic details of that bitter cold day, when the clothing of the firemen froze as soon as water touched it, have been told to your columnist by two of the old time firemen who were in the midst of the fight against a blaze, which for a time, threatened several other buildings on the campus, in addition to St. Rita’s Hall. These two are Charles E. Clark and Otis G. Hunsicker. Probably there are many others in the community who, either as firemen or spectators, remember the occasion.

The burned structure was the ” oldest of the College group, having been erected in 1808, almost 40 years before it was purchased for use as the original monastery of the Augustinian Order. At the time of the fire St. Rita’s Hall was occupied as a dormitory by students preparing for the priesthood.

The fire, which broke out about two o’clock in the afternoon, was first fought by the students themselves before alarms were sent in to the Radnor Fire Company, the Bryn Mawr Fire Company, Merion No.1, the Autocar Company and the Union Fire Company of Bala and Narbeth.

The Radnor boys got the first water on the blaze, although very shortly afterwards four other streams were playing on it. The structure of the building made the fire exceedingly difficult to fight. However, Radnor soon got its line of hose right into the midst of the flames, pouring thousands of gallons of water where it was most effective.

Even Tolentine Academy, which, was only some ten or fifteen feet away from St. Rita’s Hall did not catch fire, which, according to the account in “The Suburban” of January 12, “was due to the intelligent work of the volunteer firemen.”

Although none from the Radnor Fire Company was injured, several from other companies had to be treated in the College Infirmary and by doctors and nurses sent in, the ambulance from Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Charles Clark still recalls that when his frozen clothing had to be removed, the only other available garments at the moment were priestly ones!

Coffee and sandwiches were served to the fire fighters as the afternoon wore on, and it became more and more evident that the flames were under control. At one time it was feared that St. Thomas of Villanova Church and many of the other buildings might be imperiled. That they were all saved was due not only to the heroic work of the several fire companies, but to the help of college students as well. At one time a number of the latter were kept busy wheeling soft coal in wheel barrows from the basement of the main building to supply the Bryn Mawr steamer.

By six o’clock that evening the fire was under control. With most of the contents except those on the fourth floor saved, the loss was still estimated at approximately $75,000 by the Reverend Doctor E. G. Dohan, then president of the College. Many of the firemen stayed on until midnight, in order to watch smoldering embers that might burst into flames again.

Returning to the fire house in Wayne, where they put their equipment in shape, the firemen had but a few hours sleep before the siren sounded again. This time it was a call to the stable and garage on the John A. Brown place near Devon. In spite of their weariness, the fire laddies were on the scene within seven minutes after the alarm was sounded. It was necessary to keep the fire in check with chemicals at first, until the Radnor Fire Company could borrow additional hose from Berwyn, since the stables were about 1500 feet from the source of water supply.

Back at the Fire House again, the firemen did not even have time to thaw out their hose before John Purnell, who was working for Dr. Elmer at the time, rushed across the street to say that the second floor of the Elmer stable was on fire. Awakening from sleep, Purnell had found his bed on fire from a nearby coal oil stove. First carrying the stove outside, he had then run across Audubon avenue to summon help from the fire company.

About a dozen members of the company who were still attempting to thaw out their hose, soon brought the fire under control, thus saving not only that property, but the George M. Aman stable as well, since it practically adjoined that of Dr. Elmer’s. The Aman house was then situated on the site of the present Post Office building.

Thus ended about 36 hours of almost continous duty for Wayne’s firemen in the sub-zero weather of January, 1912.

In May of the same year Radnor Company firemen, under Chief Wilkins, made a quick early morning run to the William T. Wright estate south of Wayne, only to find the stables already beyond saving. Due to a mistake in sending out the alarm from the Wright home, the fire already had almost an hour’s start on the firemen. They worked heroically to save the other buildings, knowing that at any moment there might be a terrific explosion from a quantity of dynamite and boxes of fulmination caps and fuses stored in the garage, in addition to a large tank of gasoline under the fioor of the building.

Tons of water were thrown on the blaze by the combined forces of the Radnor and Bryn Mawr Fire companies, their source of supply being a 36,000 gallon reservoir recently constructed on the Wright property. Dense smoke and intense heat almost suffocated the firemen who handled the nozzles in relays, being able to work between the buildings for only a minute or two at a time.

Although horses, carriages, harness and other equipment were saved earlier by the neighbors and by servants on the Wright estate, the stable, a building which had been remarkable for its architectural beauty, was a total loss, with a value of about $50,000 placed on it. Most tragic of all were the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. James Stewart, employees of the Wright’s, who lived in the second fioor apartment of the stable. Mr. Stewart was carried from the flaming building while still alive, although he died later in the Bryn Mawr Hospital. After hours of patient search, all that remained of Mrs. Stewart’s body was found in the ruins of the fire by Otis Hunsicker, of the Radnor Fire Company.

(To be Continued)

1911 Fifth Annual Convention of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association and parade, the historic Darby Ram, local fires, local entertainment

The second division of the parade held in Wayne on Saturday, June 10, 1911, to celebrate the Fifth Annual Convention of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association, was made up solely of representatives from the county fire companies. This was in contrast to the first division, as described in this column last week, which was comprised of representatives from Malvern, Berwyn, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore and Norristown. In addition to these, the historic Darby Ram had a place of honor as the oldest piece of fire fighting apparatus known to be in existence anywhere.

Darby was also chosen to head the second division of the parade, since its fire company is one of the oldest in this section of the country. Chief Lockert, of Darby Company No.1, was at the head of his 62 men in the line of march. They were followed by 45 blue coated fire fighters from Swarthmore, who were accompanied by a band of 23 pieces from West Philadelphia.

The Darby Township Company of Folcroft marched in tan coats and white helmets, while the Glenolden fire laddies wore their new brown uniforms. The uniforms of the Norwood firemen consisted of long blue coats, dark trousers and helmets; those of Collingdale’s 52 marchers wore white duck trousers with blue shirts topped by blue caps. With their band of 25 pieces “many voted this the best appearing company in the line, always excepting Radnor.”

Clifton Heights had the distinction of having the only ambulance in the parade, this being in addition to a complete complement of I’ apparatus. The ambulance is described as “one made according to the newest design, filled with all I the necessities of immediate attention to the sick or injured.” In it rode a physician and a trained nurse. For the occasion of the Wayne parade, this ambulance was decorated with bunting and with flowers, including a handsome floral bell. Clifton Heights’ display was accompanied by the Garrettford Band.

Among other Delaware County companies in the line of march were those from Lansdowne, Ridley Park, Folsom, Highland Park, Morton, Lester, Sharon Hill, Eddystone and Leiperville. Woxpen of the auxiliaries from Folsom, Morton, Clifton Heights and Garrettsford, riding in gaily decorated buses, added a bit of feminine touch

Last in the line was the Radnor contingent, of 45 men dressed in their green uniforms, black gauntlets and shining black puttees, presenting “the finest appearance of any Company in the long line”, according to “The Suburban” account of June 16. Marching wtth military precision, this group was headed by their president, Eugene C. Bonniwell, Fire Chief Charles E. Clark and Fred H. Treat, treasurer. Following them were the auto-engine, driven by George Lentz and the truck driven by Paul Comins, still so new that Wayne could feel very proud of their shining appearance.

Accompanying the Wayne representation was the Bryn Mawr Band of 30 pieces. This constituted the line-up of that Saturday parade of June 10, 1911, in which “were the brain and brawn of Delaware County’s best citizenship, heroes of a hundred fires, the saviors of thousands of dollars worth of property.” At any rate it was, to date, the largest parade the Delaware County Firemen’s Association had ever assembled.

At the close of march, which covered all the main streets of North and South Wayne, all bands, banners and apparatus were massed for a march from Louella avenue along Lancaster avenue to the Opera House corner, and thence to the school grounds, where the ceremonies ended with the playing of “America” by all the bands present.

After the procession was disbanded, substantial refreshments were served to all of its participants from four tables, each about 350 feet long, which had been especially erected on the school grounds for the occasion. Local entertainment continued throughout the evening in the way of a vaudeville entertainment at the Opera House, dances at Union Hall and at St. Katharine’s Hall and a smoker at the Fire House. So ended one of the biggest days in Wayne’s history, and one of its most colorful.

Among several old timers of the Radnor Fire Department to whom your columnist has talked recently has been Otis G. Hunsicker, who came to Wayne from Conshohocken as a young man in 1906 to drive for the late Herman Wendell. At first he was too youthful and inexperienced to do more than “run with the fire company” and to “help gather up the hose”. However, he eventually drove one of Wayne’s two automobile fire engines to a small fire one day, and that night he was voted into the Fire Company.

Mr. Hunsicker, who now lives on Conestoga road in Wayne, remembers vividly many of the occasions on which these two fire engines were called into action. Usually he rode with the pumper, since he “loved to pump the water.” This second piece of fire fighting apparatus to be used by the Radnor Fire Company was indeed “his baby”, as he stilI affectionately calls it.

One of the first large fires to which he was called was that at Villanova College in January, 1912, while another was the blaze at the W. T. Wright estate the following June, when a woman was burned to death before she could be rescued. Of particular local interest is the Wayne Opera House fire, which occurred in December, 1914. Some of these fires of 40 years ago and more will be described to the readers of this column in next week’s issue.

Radnor Fire Company: history, Knox-Waterous fire engine, The Coffee House, local fires


The picture illustrating this week’s column was taken in June, 1911, after the Radnor Fire Company had for several years been the proud possessor of its first two pieces of gasoline-propelled fire fighting equipment.

To the right is their first acquisition, the Knox combined automobile and hose wagon, purchased in 1906, while to the left is the Knox-Waterous automobile gas-engine of the two-cylinder, air-cooled type. The man standing a the side of the latter is a firehouseman, employed by the Radnor Fire Company for a short period to care for the new gas-driven fire engines, the mechanics of which were so little understood at that time. Although with the passing of the years his first name has been forgotten, Charles Clark remembers that his last name was Turnbull.

The man at the right was Jack Clark, remembered as “quite a town character” and no relation to our present fire chief or his family.

In the immediate background of the picture is the original fire house, as it appeared before any of the additions were built. To the right are two buildings that were landmarks in their day, although each is but a memory now. The first is the Coffee House, while next to it is the first Radnor township school building to be erected on the large plot of ground now owned by the School District.

The Coffee House was first built as a meeting place for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Later it was turned into the Coffee House still remembered by some of the pupils of Wayne School of an earlier era for the excellence of the soup it served. Many others ate there, including Wayne’s business men and drivers of the many horse drawn trucks on Lancaster Pike. The use of the building was given without rent by a well-known local resident, as long as no intoxicating liquors were sold in the township.

Before the Wayne Neighborhood League occupied its present quarters on West Wayne avenue, it was also housed in this building, which was not destroyed until its site was needed for the first unit of the present High School building, erected in 1923.

So much for this quaint old picture, which is all the more valuable now since the two fire engines themselves gradually rusted away on the vacant lot back of Lienhardt’s store. Since the engine purchased in 1906 was the first piece of motorized fire fighting equipment to be put into operation in the United States, it might well have found a permanent place in the Smithsonian Institute, or similar sanctuary, along with its sister engine acquired in 1908.

There is only one relic of Radnor Fire Company’s first engine still in the Company’s possession. That is the bell which was once attached to the front of the old chemical and hose wagon. It now hangs on the upstairs wall of the fire house and is sounded to call meetings to order.

In discussing the disastrous Wayne fire which really sparked the movement to obtain good fire protection in Radnor township, A. M. Ehart, editor of “The Suburban”, told your columnist of the early morning blaze which totally destroyed his newspaper plant in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 10, 1906.

The building was a pleasant, two-story, yellowish-red brick edifice on the site of the present Allan C. Hale building, and was entirely occupied by “The Suburban”. No one ever really knew the origin of the intense blaze which left nothing standing except a few foundation bricks, as shown in the picture on the front page of “The Suburban” of February 16, 1906. All had been well as far as Wayne’s night watchman knew when he stopped by at 4:00 A. M. to light the gas under the linotype machine. The shrill warning of a Pennsylvania Railroad engine as it went past on the tracks to the rear of the building gave the townspeople the first warning of the blaze.

When Wayne’s horse drawn fire engines arrived on the scene, they found that the fire had gotten a tremendous start in the corner of the building where the linotype machine had stood. Although the Bryn Mawr Fire Company engines were also called into action they arrived late, as they could make but little time over bad roads. The loss was a total one, even tot he files of “The Suburban”, which could never be replaced.

At the same time the “Suburban” building was burning, Frank Heuslein’s harness shop, which stood to the east of it, caught fire, with much loss to the contents of the shop as well as to the living quarters of the Heuslein family. The site of the shop is now occupied by Peter diBlaio, antique dealer.

By the Monday morning following the disastrous Saturday “The Suburban” had resumed operation of its paper from the Downingtown plant, where it continued until 1916, when it occupied the Maguire Building, where it is now located. While the printing was done in Downingtown, the business of the newspaper was carried on in an office formerly occupied by Dr. J. C. Ward, with the still-familiar Wayne 123 (0123) as the telephone number. The Heuslein Harness Shop was also able to resume business shortly after the fire.

This February 16, 1906, edition of “The Suburban”, under the headline of “Steps Being Taken for the Organization of a First Class Fire Company in Wayne–Prominent Men Back of Movement”, tells of a meeting held on the Tuesday evening following the fire, which was attended by many of the foremost citizens of Wayne and St. Davids. The article also goes on to state that “subscriptions were being procured for the purchase of a modern combination chemical and hose truck similar to the one used by the Bryn Mawr Company, plenty of hose and all the equipment needed to fight fires successfully. Stringent rules have been made and enforced.

This then was the actual beginning of our present efficient Radnor Fire Company, in the formation of which “the three Charlies” figured so prominently – Charles Wilkins, Charles Clark and Charles Stewart.

(To be continued)

Radnor Fire Company acquires new Mack 1000 gallon pump truck, fire fighting history, plane crashes

It was an eventful day for the community when the big shiny new Mack 1000-gallon pumper, equipped with the latest in fire-fighting apparatus, arrived in Wayne last August. As it stood outside the Fire House in all the glory of the American LaFrance “fire engine red” paint, the eyes of all passers-by were on it. Many of the grownups joined the admiring group of youngsters as the latter clustered around it.

Its trial spin around the streets of Wayne attracted still wider attention. All of Radnor township felt a justifiable pride in this latest addition to one of the best equipped fire companies in the State of Pennsylvania.

This was, indeed, a far cry from the days when a three-foot fire horn, such as was owned by each Wayne householder in the 1880’s, sounded to call out the neighbors to fight any fire that might occur in the community. One of these horns is now among the most interesting exhibits at the headquarters of the Radnor Historical Society on Beechtree lane.

Old records show that even in the early days of Wayne, fire protection was considered very essential. Householders took nightly turns in patrolling their neighborhoods. So serious was the matter of the blowing of these three-foot horns that any unwarranted use of one called for a fine of five dollars.

A bucket of water stood behind the front door of each home in the township. The use of this was a first aid measure while the young men of the community rushed out to “man the pumper.” This was a 500-gallon hogshead of water on two wheels with a hand pump attached. While some of the volunteers pulled the ropes tied to the tongue of the pumper, others pushed from the rear. Down-hill, or even on the level, the method of locomotion was not too difficult. For uphill runs it was well-nigh impossible. Usually, there was little salvage after a fire had really gotten some headway.

The present fire company, formed in 1906 by a group of 21 residents of the community, has seen such steady growth in the intervening years that the handsome new Mack pumper so recently acquired is but one of the fleet of five pieces of fire-fighting apparatus, each piece capable of handling a fire by itself. Any one of the five may be sent to a fire to combat or to control it. In addition tot his array of fire trucks there is the handsome and well-equipped ambulance, which alone answered 329 calls in the period between April 1, 1950 and April 1, 1951. During this same time there were 279 fire calls, making a total of 608 calls, which the Radnor Fire Company had answered in the course of one year’s time.

The new Mack truck features the high pressure fog system, the most recently developed technique for putting out fires with the least amount of damage possible. It carries 300 gallons of water and approximately 1000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Before the acquisition of this truck the newest piece of apparatus was the 750-gallon Mack pumper acquired in 1948. It carries 1400 feet of hose, a fact very reassuring to the property owner whose home is located at a distance from the nearest fire hydrant.

Other trucks include the Chevrolet, purchased in 1940, with its 200 gallon pump, its 150 gallons of “booster” water and its 500 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose; the Ford, bought in 1939, with its 100-gallon pump and the Autocar “quad” (quadruple combination) which was acquired in 1937. The latter has a 600 gallon pump; 1100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose; two 65-foot ladders and other different types, varying from eight-foot collapsible to 50-foot extension. The different types of ladder operated by the Radnor Fire Company are extension, wall and roof ladders.

In enumerating the engines and equipment of the Radnor Fire Company, Chief Edwin J. Clark tells your columnist that there is only one possible thing which a large city company might have that is lacking Wayne–this is an aerial ladder. Among the many interesting and up-to-the-minute pieces of equipment which they do possess is a portable cutting tool in the form of an acetylene torch that would be capable of cutting an automobile in half, should this be necessary. Other equipment, of which the community may well be proud, is the fire company’s emergency lighting system, to be used at night at the scene of a fire; the foam generator for gasoline fires and the newest equipment for both high and low pressure fog. And then there is the radio inter-communication equipment, by which all the trucks may keep in contact with each other, as well as with the fire house headquarters. Incidentally, Radnor was one of the first fire companies to be radio-equipped, having acquired its set even before Philadelphia.

Among other accessory possessions are several asbestos suits that enable firemen to go right into a blaze without too much danger; masks of various kinds; many types of forcible entry tools; salvage covers to protect furniture and roof covers that effectively keep out the weather until repairs can be made.

Much of the technique of the newest methods of fire-fighting is acquired at the Fire School held in Lewistown, Pa., each year. Radnor Fire Company attempts to send several representatives to each session of this school, which is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction.

Chief Clark himself seldom misses a session. On one occasion the question was propouned as to what methods to —— out a fire in a gasoline or ——- on the road. Of the 72 fire chiefs present, Mr. Clark was the only one who had actual experience along this line, the occasion being the well-remembered fire of this kind on Spring Mill road several years ago.

“Eddie” stated that his men had put out the fire with low velocity fog. The others attending the School said this could not be done, whereupon the Session adjourned to the proving field, where the actual experiment was tried by putting gasoline in a tank and scattering more around it. The effectiveness of low-velocity fog was proved, just as Wayne’s Fire Chief had stated.

Following this question came another concerning the best methods of extinguishing fire in an airplane accident. And again “Eddie” was the only fire chief present with actual experience in this direction.

Although no other fire chief present had had experience with airplane fires, Mr. Clark had two on which to report. The first was the crash of an Army Air Force P-38, on the rear of a property on Waterloo road, Devon. The plane was on its way to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., but went off its course in a heavy rainstorm. Radnor Fire Company extinguished the flames and immediately afterwards the State Police and Army representatives took over.

The second plane accident occurred in Radnor township itself on June 15, 1949, when a private plane took of after having made a forced landing on County line road, Villanova. Neighbors called the fire company, which reached the scene in seven minutes with four pumpers, ladder truck and ambulance. The fire was put out with the fog apparatus.

Pilot rescue was impossible from the beginning–all that the fire company could do was release the body form the safety belt after extinguishing the flames. The plane apparently came into contact with high power lines of the Pennsylvania Railroad immediately after take-off.

(To be Continued)