Four Alarm Fire – Firefighters Injured & Police Officer Killed

It all happened October 22, 1931. 

A four alarm fire consumed five stores on South Main between Union and Monroe incurring a fire loss of approximately $200,000. The fire is believed to have originated in the basement of the Palmer Clothing Company. As the fire spread other stores were damaged including the Gays Trunk and Bag Co., The National Furniture Store, Dodge Clothiers, and the McClellan Store.

The fire was discovered at 6 PM and within a few minutes 14 pumpers and 4 trucks plus the Water Tower and other auxiliary pieces had arrived and were fighting the large multi-building fire. On the scene were Engines 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,15, and 17, along with Trucks 1, 2 3, and 5. Assistant Chief Irby Klinck was directing the fire in place of Chief John T Moore. Nearly 250 fire fighters were battling the fires which required 10,000 feet of hose laid with 40 streams of water being thrown on the fire. The Water Company advised that more than 646,000 gallons of water was used. 

Sadly, 15 Firefighters and 1 Police officer were injured.

Officer Charles J. Redders, a 26-year veteran, was directing traffic at Union and Second when his coat was caught in the chain drive of Engine 12 which pulled him under as they were backing up to spot a hydrant. Officer Redders, 63 of 944 Tully, died from massive injuries on 11/08/1931.

The following Firefighters were also injured:

Lt. William Bailey, 53 of Engine 4 injured shoulder.

Private Willie Jerome, 31, Engine 15, overcome by smoke.

Private Dan Floyd, 53, Engine 5, cut wrist. (Caught in a backdraft)

Driver Joe Garner, 25, Truck 4 cut on right hand and left wrist.

Private W.E. Peterson, Engine 5, overcome by smoke. (Caught in a backdraft)

Private E. W. Hofer, Engine 3, overcome by smoke.

Captain Ed Kelly, 53, Engine 4, overcome by smoke.

Captain Mike Highland, Engine 3, overcome by smoke.

Private W.T. Nelson, Engine 4, overcome by smoke.

Lt. Oscar Patton, Engine 4, overcome by smoke.

Lt. Cleve Atwell, Engine 15, overcome by smoke.

Lt. R. G. Johnson, 35, Engine 7, overcome by smoke.

Captain M.Y. Gibson, Engine 7, cut lip.

Private B. J. Connley, 25 Engine 15, overcome by smoke.

The blaze was brought under control at 9:10 PM. All of the ambulances in town were dispatched with their oxygen equipment to assist overcome firefighters. More than 2,000 spectators added to the problem. Upon the information of a “spectacular Downtown fire “ Loews State and the Warner Theaters let out. More than 40 Police officers had to be called to the scene to hold back the crowd. The entire off-duty shift was called in to man reserve equipment.

The second major fire of the night occurred at the Empire Floor and Lumber Company located at 181 West Mallory. A 2nd alarm fire that would have gotten more companies, only got 3 Engines. Once the 4-alarm fire was under control, Engine 7 cleared and along with 13 and 19, who were covering empty stations, responded along with Truck 4 as well as some off-duty shift firefighters. They fought this fire for more than 1 hour using three water streams. The structure was 200 feet outside of the city. It was customary practice during this time to respond to fires outside of the city. Along with this practice came a charge of $100.00, the equivalent of $1950.00 in 2022. 

by Joe V Lowry

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