Here are glimpses of 11 notable area fires — some more than a century ago — that burned spectacularly and captured the attention of the region, the nation and, in a few cases, the world.
A year after the Civil War ended, the Turner Opera House opened Jan. 1, 1866. Three years after the opening, a devastating fire left only a façade facing Dayton’s Main Street. It was rebuilt and after several name changes is now the Victoria Theatre.
Likely the largest fire in Springfield history, the East Street Shops – a large industrial complex between East and Kenton streets – went up in flames on Feb. 10, 1902. It reportedly started at the Champion Chemical Plant. Firemen jumped from a building as timbers collapsed. Employees of the Indianapolis Switch and Frog Co. saved that factory by dynamiting walls, but 12 others plants were consumed by the fire.
The water was just the first enemy to descend on Dayton March 21, 1913. By the second day of the Great Dayton Flood, buildings across town were on fire from explosions as gas lines ruptured. Notable losses were buildings in the area now called the Fire Blocks District, which emanates from East Third Street.
Fire destroyed the courthouse in Urbana on Jan. 20, 1948. It took more than a decade to build a replacement because residents failed to approve spending measures through several elections. A bond for $650,000 eventually passed, and a new building was dedicated on June 8, 1957.
Two firefighters lost their lives when the Air Force Logistics Command headquarters annex building burned Nov. 22, 1961, at Wright-Patterson. According to a newspaper report at the time, the worst ever base fire “reduced a three-story frame building covering nearly the area of a football field to a pile of smoldering charcoal.” Just four days later, another fire on the base destroyed three buildings and damaged four others. Damage to the property was set at $2 million.
A CSX train derailed on July 8, 1986, in Miamisburg forcing the evacuation of about 30,000 people after igniting a fire that burned for days, sending phosphorous smoke plumes across the region. Residents were allowed to return home after a day, but then officials ordered a second evacuation. People took shelter at UD Arena and the Dayton Convention Center. It remains the largest ever U.S. evacuation due to a train derailment involving hazardous materials and the largest emergency evacuation in Ohio history, according to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
Fire officials let a huge 1987 Sherwin-Williams paint warehouse blaze burn for nearly a week rather than douse burning contaminants with water that could later foul the region’s drinking water. The fire incinerated more than 1.5 million gallons of paint and solvents. Sherwin-Williams eventually paid the city $900,000 in addition to $8.2 million Sherwin-Williams spent on the cleanup.
Smoke billowed for a day across a large portion of Dayton as 3,000 cars and junked appliances piled approximately 50 feet high burned at Franklin Iron & Metal Co on May 20, 2010. Dayton officials advised people within two miles of the fire stay indoors for much of the day. No harmful pollutants were detected, but the air quality was tested for a month.
More than 50 agencies — including every fire department in Clark County — responded on April 19, 2012, to a blaze at the R.D. Holder Oil Co., 2219 Folk Ream Road. Flames shot 200 feet up, and thick smoke could be seen as far away as Dayton and Butler County. The smoke plume even showed up on weather radar.
Flames towered over buildings near downtown Springfield as Tri-State Pallet went up in flames on Jan. 6, 2015. The five-alarm fire forced the evacuation of the Springfield Family YMCA and closed the Spring Street overpass and nearby railroad tracks. Water used to fight the fire encased the area in ice afterward.
A wrong-way driver on Interstate 75 in downtown Dayton crashed into a semi tanker full of gasoline causing multiple explosions and sending balls of flame and smoke skyward over nearby neighborhoods for more than an hour. The driver of the car, 30-year-old Andrew Brunsman from Beavercreek, was killed and the truck driver suffered minor injuries in the collision on April 30, 2017.
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