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Recollections of the Old Red MIll Fire

November 8,1961

Herbert Montgomery

     The store remodeling was almost complete when fire broke out early one morning. It was a school day, but when Herbert saw the fire, he ran down the hill to help (he was 17). Sam Banton was the fire chief and he and Herbert went into the building with a hose. They were on the main floor, roughly in the middle of the building along the Rt. 219 wall. They couldn't get to the fire because it was burning in the wall between the corrugated metal on the outside and the Homosote panels on the inside. (The mill might have been built with balloon framing in which wall cavities run from the cellar to the roof and would let fire spread very quickly to the roof.) Homosote is fire resistant so the fire stayed in the walls and they could not get to the fire to extinguish it. When the chief realized they couldn't get to the fire, he told Herbert to get out of the building. He did and watched the fire consume the Old Red Mill. Needless to say, Herbert did not go to school that day.

Jerry Clemons

     Several years later, the state highway garage burned while Jerry was a member of the Fairlea volunteer fire department.

     "I remember that it was a really cold night and I was a member of the Fairlea volunteer fire department,  When the call came in that there was a fire up in Lewisburg, I went up there with the Fairlea volunteer fire department. When I first got there the state highway maintenance garage was on fire. We got our truck all set up and got some hoses and started fighting the fire. What I understood was that they were cleaning some parts using gasoline or kerosene and it caught on fire and spread rather quickly. It was a frame building and the fire really took off -  we started spraying water on the fire trying to keep it under control. I was holding one of the hoses, that was my job. It wasn't long until the next thing happened – the jail caught on fire. It was directly behind the maintenance building up on the side of the hill. Even though it had a lot of stone work, it was half stone and half frame, it caught on fire and it was a really, really hot fire and it was a  cold, cold night. I was holding the hose and spraying water on both buildings, trying to keep the jail from catching on fire, but it did. So we were fighting both fires and they both burned very fast, it was a hot fire.

     "So the other thing I remember is sort of funny. One of the firefighters had a pint of whiskey and while we were cold and fighting this fire, they were passing this pint of whiskey up and down the fire line for people to warm up a little bit. It wasn't moonshine, just a pint of whiskey or bourbon. Nobody got drunk or anything, people just took a drink and passed it on. We were so cold it was a welcome sight to see."



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