It’s often the unusual, unexpected, or ironic event that makes news, and that was the case here three times over the years when the fire station, then in the old City Hall at Wabash and Main Streets, was threatened by.....Fire!
In 1910, Wabash firemen didn’t even have to take their rigs out of the station to answer an alarm on the evening of November 21. Shortly after 7:00 p.m. the odor of smoke drifted through the lower floor of the old City Hall. Soon the hunt for the source of the smoke was on with firemen and policemen scurrying about the building.
Firemen first checked the stable area for fear that hay may have caught fire, but when Ben Cornet, driver of the ladder wagon, opened the door of a lounge he was greeted by heavy smoke and flames. Cornet and other firemen quickly put out the blaze, but they were chagrined to find that one of their own had tossed a cigar into a wooden box filled with sawdust that had been fashioned into a make-shift spittoon. It
smoldered for several hours before bursting into flame.
A far more serious fire was the one that struck City Hall on February 4, 1917, while firemen were fighting a major blaze in the Cook Junk Yard building on Water Street. Firemen had been at the Cook blaze for more than 12 hours when, at about 3:00 a.m., they were informed that City Hall was on fire. With the Cook fire under control by that time, firemen turned hose lines over to civilians and made a dash up the hill to City Hall.
There they found the building filled with smoke and flames shooting out windows of the council chambers on the second floor. Firemen pulled hose lines up the stairway on the Main Street side of the building and doused the visible flames, but they found more fire under the floor.
Firemen cut several holes in the floor and poured thousands of gallons of water through those openings. Again, citizens came to the aid of the exhausted firemen, and together they battled the stubborn blaze for another four or five hours before finally striking it out.
That wasn’t the last fire in the old fire station. Sometime in the early 1930s, plaster falling onto a pool table that stood in the rear of the equipment floor alerted firemen to a blaze in the ceiling. They pulled a booster line off the 1920 American LaFrance pumper and quickly put out the fire, which had started in some wiring. The ceiling was slightly damaged, but the felt on the pool table was ruined.