Pamplin Media Group – 1992: Bucket Brigades Attack Spreads Hotel Fire

Heroic efforts prevent fire from completely destroying downtown Madras

100 YEARS AGO

September 28, 1922

A fire, starting on the second floor of the old Madras hotel, evidently starting from a chimney which age had rendered defective, totally destroyed the hotel and practically all its contents, with several sheds and buildings which stood at the back of which the boarding stable. operated by WT Steele, severely damaged the apartment building owned by Mansell Wheeler, caused much damage and inconvenience to the garage owned by Hood & Conroy, burned several sections of sidewalk, demoralized light and telephone service in the northern end of Madras and for a time threatened to wipe out the entire business district if not the entire city, Monday afternoon.

The fire was first discovered at 2:45 a.m., with several people seeing it around the same time. Prior to its discovery, it had evidently burned hidden between the ceiling and the roof for some time, then burst out into the open with a huge cloud of black smoke. The city fire department was quickly brought into play by volunteer workers who did an excellent job and did a great job of quickly throwing away the protection that the local water system provides quickly against the flames, and we considers that their dispatch in this affair greatly contributed to preventing the total destruction of the city.

When people rushed to the hotel, the flames had already enveloped the roof and upper floor, and no one was able to climb the stairs as the flames were then being pushed down the stairs. Within ten minutes, those on the floor below, quickly throwing away as light items as they could, were forced to seek their own safety through the windows, with the doors then blocked by fire.

Bucket brigades formed both at the Wheeler house and along the Larkin buildings and the fence south of the fire. Heroic work has been done in both places. On the Wheeler house, Gib Long poured water from buckets, pots and pans through the flames and smoke, and when the fire was brought under control he discovered that his shoes had been burned. Austin Culp, carrying water from the north lean-to along the cone of the main structure and tearing off hot shingles as he went, eventually collapsed from the effects of the heat and smoke, and got help from the roof. Percy Lockwood entered the attic of the Wheeler home and put out the fire as the men entered, then rushed to safety.

Across the street above the Larkin shed sat AD Clink, flames from the blazing hotel leapt across the open space and engulfed him time and time again. He alternated the buckets of water brought to him, pouring one on the burning roof and following it on himself, but he never left the roof until the fire was brought under control. Many people in Madras freely declare that it is to Clink that we owe the fact that the city is not entirely in ashes. Alongside Clink were Wes Baker and Ed Dodd, pouring their energy into keeping the high plank fence from burning and, when the occasion called for it, rushing to Clink’s aid. Ray Moore at Main Street Garage, although ill at the time, stayed with him until the fire was put out, badly injuring his left arm and badly burning one of his hands. Everyone who was at the fire, and we are informed that there was a crowd present, did what they could to help.

Almost at the same time as the hotel, the livery barn was on fire and it was realized that there was no chance of saving it. WT Steele, who operated it, was able to save his horses and some harnesses, losing a considerable amount of hay and personal effects in the fire. Complete forge equipment was destroyed, it was stored in a small shed between the hotel and the barn.

Herculean measures were needed to save the Main Street Garage building, but it was successfully accomplished. Several used cars, machinery and tools in the open space between the burning hotel and the garage building caught fire and when a partially full tank of gasoline exploded, setting fire to about 15 cords of lumber sixteen inches stacked against the south side of the garage building hopes of salvaging it have become nearly exhausted. The two south doors were burned and the wooden beams inside under the roof were badly burned. Virtually all of the stock and some of the devices had been moved out of the building. Sheets of hotel fire were bubbling up the side of the rooftop brick garage, and the old wooden garage forty feet to the north was on fire repeatedly. Manager Conroy attributes the fact that the brick garage did not burn primarily to this excellent construction and the roof was recently completely treated with several coats of asbestos fireproof roofing paint.

The loss to the hotel is estimated at around $15,000. The building belonged to F. Zogg of Prineville and the equipment and furnishings to Mrs. WF Johnson of Madras. The Wheeler house is probably damaged to the tune of $1,500, while Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler will also lose significantly in furniture etc. damaged when removed from the building. WT Steele’s loss in the livery barn will likely be less than $500 while Hood & Conroy will undoubtedly take a loss of over $1000. The tenants of the Madras Hotel lost everything they had in their room. Several of them lost money and all lost their clothes and personal effects.

It’s the usual thing here for the wind blowing from the north or northwest. It was certainly an act of providence that the wind that day was from the southwest, the only wind of that nature that blew in Madras for months.

75 YEARS AGO

September 25, 1947

Phil Farrell, manager of the Jefferson County Supply Cooperative, which serves central Oregon from its Redmond headquarters, while here on Wednesday last week, announced that Ralph Freisen had delivered to the cleaning plant seed from the cooperative to Metolius the first Ladino clover seed grown in Jefferson County. Farrell said the seed looked meatier and higher quality than any seen in Oregon. Freisen applied for certification on his 15-acre lot near Culver.

“In the event that the tract qualifies for blue label certification,” Farrell said, “the Jefferson County Cooperative Association, the local retail affiliate of the Pacific Supply Cooperative, and the latter will advance to Freisen $1.65 per pound for Ladino seed in a seed grouping organizations work for area seed growers.

Farrell said Freisen had just started harvesting, indicating a yield of about 300 pounds of Ladino seed per acre. Kenneth E. Duling has a large tract of Ladino, which he is just beginning to harvest. Indications are that his yield per acre will be considerably higher than Freisen’s.

Farrell reported that Leach & Merchant, the Culver breeders, delivered the first alsike clover in Jefferson County to the Metolius Cleaning Plant.

50 YEARS AGO

September 28, 1972

Last Friday at the Kah-Nee-Ta Lodge, following lunch at the Oregon Association of Broadcasters conference, Senator Mark Hatfield introduced Olney Patt Sr., Chairman of the Warm Springs Tribal Council , a pen symbolic of that used by President Nixon when signing the McQuinn Strip Bill.

Last minute arrangements were made for the presentation after it was learned that on Thursday evening the President had signed the bill which returns approximately 61,000 acres to the Confederate Tribes.

Three tribal chiefs, Amos Simtustus, Nelson Wallulatum and Raymond Johnson; general manager Ken Smith; and Vice Chairman of the Board, Delbert Frank, were also present for the presentation.


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About Gertrude H. Kerr

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