On the Job – Indiana: 7-Alarm Fire Destroys Historic Buildings in Jeffersonville

Jay K. Bradish details a blaze that tore through seven commercial buildings in the historic downtown business district of Jeffersonville, IN.


On Jan. 11, 2004, a raging fire tore through seven commercial buildings in the historic downtown business district of Jeffersonville, IN. The buildings in this block ranged in height from one to three stories with brick walls and flat roofs. All of the buildings were built in the late 1880s or early...


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On Jan. 11, 2004, a raging fire tore through seven commercial buildings in the historic downtown business district of Jeffersonville, IN. The buildings in this block ranged in height from one to three stories with brick walls and flat roofs. All of the buildings were built in the late 1880s or early 1890s.

JEFFERSONVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT

Chief: Clark Miles
PersonneL: 54 firefighters (combination department)
Apparatus: Two pumpers, two quints, three reserve engines, one reserve quad, one reserve Snorkel
Population: 27,900
Area: 49 square miles

The fire originated in the Horner Novelty Co. building located at 310– 322 Spring Street, in the center of the block. This was a two-story brick building occupying 40,000 square feet. The building was used as a party supply store and had a full inventory of paper and plastic goods. All of the second-floor windows in the Horner building were covered with three-quarter-inch plywood, making ventilation impossible. The wind was blowing between 20 and 30 mph toward the northeast at the time of the fire.

0404job1.jpg Photo By Chuck Branham/The Evening News
Firefighters are in a defensive mode of operation 20 minutes into the incident. A backdraft occurred as firefighters broke the glass out of the front doors to gain entry, blowing two firefighters out into the street. This view looks east toward the Horner Novelty Co. building and 300 Spring St. From left are Jeffersonville Quint 1, Car 5 and Engine 1.

At 5:07 P.M., the Central Fire Alarm Office dispatched District Chief Major Kircher in Car 5 and Engine 1, a 1,500-gpm pumper with three firefighters, to a report of smoke in the area of the Olde Towne Grocery at 128 East Maple St. Kircher observed smoke in the area, but it was not issuing from the Olde Towne Grocery. Central Alarm advised Kircher that it had received several more calls reporting smoke in the area.

Patrolling the area, Kircher discovered a fire in the Horner building located at 310 Spring St. He immediately requested Quint 1, a 105-foot aerial with a 1,500-gpm pump to respond with three firefighters. Kircher advised Central Alarm of a working fire at 5:09 P.M. Engine 1 was positioned in front of fire building and was supplied with two 200-foot three-inch supply lines from a hydrant located at the corner of Spring and Chestnut Streets. Quint 1 was positioned in front of fire building and was supplied with two three-inch supply lines from hydrant north of fire building.

0404job2.jpg Photo By Chuck Branham/The Evening News
Jeffersonville Engine 1 with its deck gun in operation and Quint 1 in the background. Lines have been advanced into 300 Spring St.

The first-arriving crews found heavy smoke inside the Horner building and could see fire inside. Firefighters broke the glass out of the front doors in order to gain entry, and as they did this a backdraft occurred, blowing two firefighters out into the street. Operations were immediately changed to a defensive mode. Engine 1 placed its deck gun into operation and two 21¼2-inch handlines and three 11¼2-inch handlines were also placed into operation.

Kircher requested a second alarm at 5:11 P.M. Engine 2, a 1,500-gpm pumper with three firefighters, and Quint 3, a 75-foot ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump and three firefighters, responded. Fire Chief Clark Miles was also notified and responded on the second alarm. As Miles was responding, he requested the “Kelly Crew” be recalled and upon arrival at the scene, he asked for the recall of all off-duty firefighters. (Jeffersonville firefighters work 24 hours on, 24 off, 24 on, 24 off, 24 on, then four days off. The “Kelly Crew” are the firefighters who are on their on four days off.) In all, 50 Jeffersonville firefighters responded.

0404job3.jpg Photo By John Gilkey/The Evening News
Jeffersonville Quint 1 operates in front of the Horner building. Winds were clocked at up to 30 mph at the time of the fire.
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