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Gazette and Bulletin: January 2, 1940 – Williamsport Planning Mill, Homes Destroyed by Fire

The Williamsport Planing Mill, Campbell and First Streets and six frame homes on First Street were destroyed by raging, spectacular fire early yesterday morning. The loss has placed at between $350,000 and $400,000 by Lawrence E. Krimm, plant manager.

The fire claimed one life. Frank Fulkrod, 63, residing at 760 First Street, in the block east of the mill, died of a heart attack when sparks ignited his house. The blaze to the house was extinguished with slight damage.

The temperature hovered at 8 above most of the early morning hours and a strong wind whipped the flames and blazing embers over a wide area. An ember dropped on the former Valley Iron Works building on West Street, several blocks east, but the fire was extinguished by residents in the vicinity before there was much damage.

A few minutes before the blaze was discovered at 6:15 in the planning mill, Companies 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 and the ladder truck had been summoned to 600 Campbell Street, where flames had been found on the roof of the large apartment building, at one time used as the Home for the Friendless.

Five minutes later the alarm was sounded for the lumber fire, several companies were rushed to later outbreak and with the sounding of the general alarm firemen from South Williamsport, Montoursville and Loyalsock Township responded. At the request of Williamsport Fire Chief Michael E. Clark, firemen from Jersey Shore responded and were held in reserve.

The origin of the planning mill fire is not known. The plant had been closed since last Wednesday, when inventory was being taken. An engineer who was acting as watchman, discovered the blaze on the second floor of the southeast corner of the building. He sent in an alarm on the Gamewell fire alarm system.

Compiled by Lou Hunsinger Jr.

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