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Parkersburg WV 26101

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Fire at Reliable Furniture, Parkersburg Photo by Dave Ferrell.

Firemen were pumping water into the basement of the Reliable Furniture Store,419 Market St., on the morning of May 15, 1962, more than twenty hours after receiving the first fire alarm shortly after noon on May 14, 1962. Lt. Seldon Wigal of the fire department was taken to Camden Clark Memorial Hosptial where he remained as a patient, although his condition was reported by hospital personnel that morning as "good." Also on the injured list was Lt. Robert Meeks, who suffered a severe cut on his arm and received emergency treatment, but immediately went back into service. Firemen Wilbur Kelley and Herb Kanney were both given emergency treatment for smoke inhalation and ordered home and several others were given oxygen, but returned to the fire as soon as they received some relief from the fumes.

The smoldering, creeping fire blanketed downtown Parkersburg for hours with clouds of choking smoke and the haze still covered the area that morning. Estimate of the damage was not complete, but according to Charles R. (Bob) Bucklew Sr., store manager, of the Reliable, it was between $80,000 and $100,000 to the contents, covered by insurance, but damage to the building had not yet been estimated. Chief Gilbert F. Hays of the fire department stated that he thought the building could be salvaged, but accurate information would have to await the inspection after the water has been pumped from the basement.

The first alarm, received at 1:19 was made by Gerald Henniger, local architect, who had been in the Hornor and Harrison store, next to the furniture store. He saw the smoke and informed the store personnel, then went to nearby No. 1 fire station to report it. Chief Inspector Huey O. Neal was there and went at once to the basement of the store, accompanied by Inspectors Pringle and Postlewait, and upon opening one door, saw the accumulation of smoke. Neal immediately closed the door to contain the smoke and orders were sent out for all available fire fighting equipment.

Both aerial trucks were used, the new one at the back of the building where firemen were placed on the roof, and the other placed firemen on the second and third floors from Market St. Many times the huge billowing clouds of smoke engulfed the aeria land pumper, stationed nearby, but the operators continued to work without masks. All available masks, air tanks and emergency equipment were placed in use, being transported from No.5, where it was stored by police cruiser and motorcycle patrols.



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