Thursday, April 22, 2010

1968 Malone Fire


On Tuesday, July 2, 1968, a fire and explosion at the Malone Novelty Company caused the injury of its owner, Harold Regis and the complete destruction of that business and the nearby St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church. 

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Other businesses and residences caught alight as a result of this massive fire, but those were quickly extinguished and the damage was limited to the Malone Novelty Company and St. Joe's.   Fire Departments  from throughout Franklin County responded with mutual aid and volunteers, National Guard members and members of the county highway department joined the firefighters to direct traffic, control the crowd and generally aid the firefighting operation.  The Malone Telegram reported that up to 12 firefighters suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion during the battle to put down the conflagration.  Other churches in Malone immediately pledged their support for the St. Joseph's congregation and offered space for church activities in their buildings, and a team of volunteers and clergy entered the burning church to remove several important items.  

According to Frederick Seaver (Historical Sketches of Franklin County, New York, 1918), Malone acquired its first fire engine in 1832.  "It was operated by a crank on each side, and not more than eight men could work on it at a time.  It was back-breaking business when one kept at it long.  The water had to be dumped into the box from buckets, and the stream which the pump delivered was small and feeble." (p. 432).  Malone has had both volunteer and paid fire departments, and at one point during the 1880s, had multiple hose companies who vied to be the first to appear at a fire, held dances, and competed in firemen's tournaments.  In 1890, an electric fire alarm system was instituted and a paid fire service was created with a staffed engine house. 

St. Joseph's Church had known calamity prior to the 1968 fire that destroyed its building.  Father John McNulty bought the lot at the corner of Main and Rockland Streets in Malone in 1836 and built the first St. Joseph's Church building in 1837.  The building was enlarged ca. 1850 but then torn down in 1862 and  a new building erected on the same site.   In 1870 this new church building caught fire and burned to the ground.  A new structure was begun and after one year, with the exterior nearly finished, "a high wind tore off the roof and tumbled two of the walls into ruins." (Seaver, p.484)  The building slowly rebuilt, but was not completed enough to be dedicated until 1882.    The first settled rector of St. Joseph's, Father Bernard McCabe, died in a fire at the rectory in 1857 that did not significantly damage the rest of the house. 

2 comments:

  1. The Malone Telegram reported that up to 12 firefighters suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion during the battle to put down the conflagration. Other churches in Malone immediately pledged their support for the St. Joseph's congregation and offered space for church activities in their buildings, and a team of volunteers and clergy entered the burning church to remove several important items. fire watch services

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