York’s worst blaze struck 150 years ago
Fear of fires has been with York County residents since buildup in small towns brought houses close enough together for a minor blaze to turn major.
Fire officials particularly cautioned against chimney fires from the build up of soot and grease.
Their worst fears came true 150 years ago this year when fire, starting in a stable, destroyed an entire York block.
High winds fanned flames, and they destroyed 17 frame buildings and the brick Laurel Fire Co. in what one newspaper termed: “about the most destructive and alarming conflagration that ever occurred in York. …”
Laurel firefighters fought hard to save their station and their new 1, 047-pound bell in its tower. The bell, forged at a cost of $332, grew white with heat before falling from the cupola, sustaining a crack several inches long.
The whole thing became worse when, according to a Laurel Fire Company account, Vigilant firefighters, their longtime nemeses, refused to give assistance and only did so when it was too late.
Cooperation among firefighters was more forthcoming in another blaze at the Laurel.
According to “Never to be Forgotten” www.ydr.com/history :
“In 1913, the Laurel and Rex fire companies did not travel far to fight a summer evening blaze. They responded to a blaze in a frame stable at the rear of their own firehouses. The flames first appeared near a manure pit at the end of the stable that housed the horses used to pull firefighting apparatus. It spread from there to threaten a nearby boardinghouse. The blaze caused $1,000 in damage to stable, hay, straw and fire hose. The Union and Rescue fire companies also responded to provide aid to their fellow firefighters. A newspaper reported that people gathered “anxious to see a fire at an engine house, for such a thing is a rarity.”