Over Twenty Buildings and More than Fifty Office and Small Store Rooms Burned Out

THE greatest conflagration in the history of Kewanee, I11., destroyed nearly three city blocks of the business section on April 13 and caused a loss estimated at between $2,000,000 and $2,500,000. The fire started shortly before 2 a.m. in the second floor of the Kewanee Dry Goods building.

An unofficial count shows over twenty buildings and more than fifty office and small store rooms burned out. For many of the professional men such as lawyers and physicians, the loss in office equipment is high. Lawyers lost files of their cases and law libraries which had taken a lifetime to collect.

Kewanee’s small force of firemen fought valiantly under Chief Al Stuhlsatz to stop the spread of flames, but were handicapped by lack of hose, other equipment and manpower. De partments from Galesburg, Peoria, Wyoming, Galva, Toulon, Cambridge, Neponset, Bradford, Sheffield, Wyanet and other cities rushed to Kewanee to give assistance when it appeared that the entire business section was doomed.

Two Views of the RuinsAir View of the Disastrous Kewanee Fire Charred walls beside piles of smoking debris attested to the fury of the big fire which raged through sections of three downtown by blocks.

Fire-blackened walls were all that remained within an hour of the Kewanee Dry Goods building, the Leader Store, Carps department store, the Rialto Theater building. The blaze quickly spread across North Tremont Street, fanned by an east wind, to the Kewanee Public Service Company. Within a half hour the power company’s headquarters were gutted by flames and the fire was fanning out north and south.

The J. C. Penney building, the Kirley block and the Kewanee Production Credit structure were involved next.

The City Furniture store was saved by prompt action of firemen on the roof, with the assistance of the water curtain from “The Star-Courier” sprinkler system.

The fire, carried by wind and flying embers, then swept through the West Second Street block, consuming the Baker building which was a fire target in 1930. Only the concentration of hose and fire fighting equipment saved the Parkside Hotel.

All available firemen, police reserves, sheriff’s deputies, defense council deputies, Company C guardsmen in uniform took over the job of policing the blaze, shifting hose and holding back the night crowds.

Only the eight and twelve-inch water mains the city installed in the business district prevented complete destruction of the city’s business district. These mains kept water pressure at sixty-five pounds or better throughout the fire, and sufficient volume to handle twenty hydrant leads with auxiliary’ pumpers.

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