Springfield blazes on list of 11 historic fires that captured nation’s attention

Editor’s Note: This story first published on July 12, 2017.


Most people in Springfield will remember the fire that engulfed the R.D. Holder Oil Co. five years ago. 

The family business went up in flames after a spark of static electricity lit a tanker filled with racing fuel, resulting in 200-foot cloud of smoke and flames that could be seen from as far as Butler County.

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.

1869 | Turner Opera House | Dayton

In May 1869 the Turner Opera House, now known as the Victoria Theatre, was destroyed by fire leaving only the facade along Main Street. This year the Victoria Theatre, Dayton's oldest theatre, is celebrating its' 150th anniversary. DAYTON COLLECTION OF MARTIN J. KELLY / DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVES

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.

» RELATED: How Victoria Theatre rose from burned opera house to Dayton mainstay 

1902 | East Street Shops | Springfield

Springfield Fire Division Records say the alarm for the Feb. 2, 1902, fire that devastated the East Street Shops was called in from Box 63 inside the shops, not Box 27 at Pleasant and East streets. A newspaper account, however, listed Box 27 as the source of the initial call, and that tradition is reflected in the name of Box 27 Associates. Courtesy of Clark County Historical Society
Photo: Submitted photo

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. 

» RELATED: Website allows users to read historic Clark County newspapers 

1913 | Numerous buildings | Dayton

After the 1913 Great Flood and fire, this is what remained of Solomon Rauh and sons wholesale wine and liquors on East Third Street.
Photo: Curt Dalton/Curt Dalton, Dayton History

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. 

» RELATED: 40 years ago, one of the country’s most disastrous club fires killed dozens from the Miami Valley 

1948 | Champaign County Courthouse | Urbana

Fire destroyed the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana on Jan. 20, 1948. It took more than a decade to build a replacement. PHOTO COURTESY CHAMPAIGN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Photo: CHAMPAIGN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCI

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.

1961 | Air Force Logistics Command headquarters annex, Bldg. 262-A | Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

Two firefighters lost their lives when the Air Force Logistics Command headquarters annex, Building 262-A, burned Nov. 22, 1961 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. 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. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

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.

1986 | CSX train derailment | Miamisburg

A CSX train derailed in Miamisburg on July 8, 1986, igniting a fire that sent phosphorous smoke plumes across the region and forcing the evacuation of about 30,000 people. DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Photo: DAYTON DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

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.

» RELATED: Ohio remains third in nation for serious hazmat transportation accidents 

1987 | Sherwin-Williams warehouse | Dayton

Sherwin-Williams warehouse fire 5/28/87 Dayton Water Supply workers put down rubber hose which will supply water to drain sewers. The sewers are on fire because of run off of from the Sherwin-Williams warehouse fire. A solvent which is water soluable is on fire in the sewers. Filling the sewers with water leaves no room for the fire to burn.
Photo: Bill Garlow

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. 

» RELATED: When a massive Sherwin-Williams warehouse blaze threatened the area’s drinking water in 1987 

2010 | Franklin Iron & Metal | Dayton

A pile of 3,000 scrap autos and appliances burns Thursday, May 20, at Franklin Iron and Metal, 2015 E. First St. in Dayton.
Photo: Chris Stewart

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

» RELATED: Dayton scrap-yard fire was one of several that erupted 

2012 | R.D. Holder Oil Co. | Clark County

Fire departments from several counties battle a fire at the RD Holder Oil Co. in rural Clark County Thursday, April 19 2012. The fire, which started when tanker truck caught fire near the companies warehouse, quickly engulfed the entire business. Fire fighters battled the blaze for more than six hours. Staff photo by Bill Lackey
Photo: Bill Lackey/Staff photo by Bill Lackey

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. 

» RELATED: Massive fire at oil company poses environmental threat 

2015 | Tri-State Pallet | Springfield

Members of the Springfield Fire Division battle a five alarm fire at Tri-State Pallet in downtown Springfield Tuesday evening. Bill Lackey/Staff
Photo: Bill Lackey

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.

» RELATED: Demolition underway at site of Tri-State Pallet fire 

2017 | Tanker truck | Dayton

Dayton Police have released 2 911 calls of a fiery crash that left one person dead Sunday afternoon. Authorities said it appears that a wrong-way driver slammed head-on into a semi tanker truck causing a large fire and an explosion.

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.

» RELATED: Driver in fiery, wrong-way I-75 crash had drugs in system

Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

X