Three Muncie Firemen Killed by Falling Wall

Three Muncie Firemen Killed by Falling Wall

A roof collapses in one of nine buildings destroyed by fire at the Schwartz Paper Company warehouse in Muncie. Loose bricks in the foreground are from a wall which collapsed earlier, killing three firemen as they pulled hose into position to fight the blaze.

The collapse of a brick wall brought death to three firemen and injuries to a fourth during a $250,000 paper company fire in Muncie, Ind., on Feb. 9, 1955.

Muncie Fire Chief Richard DeCraspos and Delaware County Coroner Eugene Eissman advanced the theory that either an explosion of insecticide bombs, or expanding gas from burning paper, was responsible for the sudden tumbling of the wall, which measured 20 feet in length and 30 feet height, and which trapped the victims as they were attempting to pull back hose lines.

The dead firemen are Capt. Clarence White, 50, and fire fighters Vernon Lutton, 30, and Doyle Upchurch, 34. The injured man was fire fighter Eugene Sanders who suffered a compound fracture of the left leg when he was pinned under the bricks and stone with the other three firemen. A fifth man, Lieut. Asron Belcher, 45, was nearly trapped by the falling wall but escaped with minor bruises and cuts.

Firemen White and Lutton were killed instantly: Upchurch died en route to the hospital.

The first alarm for the fire, which was in the 60-year-old Schwartz Paper Company, was received at 9:30 A.M., and a second alarm was sounded four minutes later. The blaze was fought by the entire Muncie Fire Department, which managed to save two of the ten inter-connecting brick and stone buildings which composed the plant. Part of the heavy loss was suffered by the Warner Gear Division of the BorgWarner Corporation, and a Muncie furniture factory, which had goods stored in parts of the buildings.

A tragic phase of the incident was the fact that one of the ambulances sent to pick up the dead firemen was driven by the brother of one victim, Policeman Ray Lutton.

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