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Coalhurst Alberta Fire

Our Treasured Heritage-
A History of Coalhurst and District - Page 22

Four Business Firms Razed In Night Fire
Overheated Stove Blamed For Blaze -
Lethbridge Fire Dept. Saves Town
(From Our Own Correspondent)
(Editor's note - Event took place about 1930)

COALHURST, Dec. 20 - Fanned by a strong westerly wind, a fire which broke out in McDermott's hardware store here last night, quickly spread and entirely destroyed the business section east of the McDermott store. The post office, Pavan's pool rooms, Willis Confectionery, and the Coalhurst Community Club all quickly caught and were soon blazing furiously. No one was injured. Total loss is estimated at $35,000.

The fire was first noticed at ten-thirty p.m. and shortly afterwards the fire whistle at the mine was sounded. There is no fire brigade at Coalhurst and the fire fighting equipment from the mine was promptly pressed into service, the mine manager and his officials offering every facility to combat the flames.

A call was quickly put in for the Lethbridge fire department and Fire Chief Wm. Hardy and his men responded at once, bringing with them the pump truck, which proved extremely valuable in the circumstances.

Since changing over to the Calgary Power Co. from steam, the mine has been only able to pump a limited amount of water owing to the small capacity of the pumps installed, and there was quite a danger of the water supply giving out. However, with what water was available Fire Chief Hardy and his men actually saved a large part of the town of Coalhurst from destruction.

About forty feet from the Community Club, which was a large two and a half storey building, stands the home of William McGinnis, and his widowed mother. Mrs. McGinnis has been bedridden for many years and she had to be carried out under the supervision of Dr. K. I. Murray while showers of sparks were actually flying all around the house.

Clifford Davis, a former Herald carrier boy, was the hero of the night at the McGinnis home. He stood on top of the house and although at times the heat from the burning Community Club was terrific, constantly poured a stream of water over the roof of the McGinnis home, and it is to his efforts that credit for saving the McGinnis home must be allotted.

Boys Give Aid

On the other side of the burning block stands the home of the late Mrs. William McDermott, now occupied by her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Laronde. This was the next door to the burning post office, and within ten feet or so of the actual flames. Howard McDermott, well-known athlete and son of the postmaster, J. I. McDermott, lay flat on the roof and threw a stream of water over the shingles, in spite ol' terrific heat. A group of boys formed a hand bucket brigade and carried water with which they splashed the sides of the McDermott home. Con Moser maintained a stream from a hose on the side of the house nearest the post office and to him and to Howard McDermott is given the actual credit of saving the McDermott home.

Across the street stand the McDonald and Pavan stores. Here men worked heroically to keep the sparks from catching and although the heat caused the windows of McDonald's store to fall in, the buildings were saved.

Joseph Melling occupies the house on the corner, diagonally from the Community Club and he was at Kipp visiting when he saw the flames. Rushing home he found his wife with everything packed and ready to move out. With the help of neighbors, all the furniture was transferred to other houses out of the danger zone, while Melling stood guard with a small hose on the roof of the house.


The Coalhurst Community Club was valued at $12,000 and Insurance was carried to the amount of $4,000.

McDermotts valued their buildings at around $6,000, with stock at $14,000, partially covered by insurance. Tony Pavan, who owned both his pool room and Willis Confectionery, is understood to have carried no insurance at all. W. E. McDermott made a valiant effort to save the mail from the burning post office, but was driven back by the flames. A considerable quantity of Christmas mail arrived last night and this perished along with other contents of the post office.

The fire started at ten-thirty o'clock and was under control at about one-thirty, the Lethbridge Fire Department arriving at eleven o'clock and returning to Lethbridge about two a.m. All telephonic communication with Lethbridge and outside points was cut off when the wires burned off and the poles blazed up. The entire population of Coalhurst and vicinity was on hand eager to help those whose homes were endangered, and in dozens of homes everything was packed in readiness for a quick move.

Arrangements have already been made by the postmaster for temporary quarters and the Community Club meets today to decide upon their policy for the future. Willis Confectionery managed to save part of their equipment but at present it is not known what steps will be taken by Willis and McDermotts to commence business once more.

McDermott's safe is understood to have been destroyed. It was not fire proof and contained, besides case, some extremely valuable papers.

At 10o'clock the debris was still shouldering and salvaging had begun.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup