Sylvania is Burning!

It was the black night of April 26, 1887. Back of the counter in Dr. Hank's Drug Store, a greedy tongue of flame danced upward in a gust of wind from under the door. It was blowing outside, a fitful April wind from the east, bearing a feel of rain.

No warning of the fire that was eating it's way out of the doctor's little shop was given until the glare awakend some light sleeper. Then, the clangor of church bells. No powerful siren shrilled to tumble firemen out of bed. Instead, men with buckets, slopping water hastily drawn from the wooden pump at the livery stable (Main at Monroe), tried to quench the spreading flames.  Women and children huddled in awe at a distance. The town was burning!

Over at the depot a telegrapher opened his key and called. Toledo answered. Staccato clicks spelled out a plea for help. A.L.S. & M.S. train dispatcher at the other end, the thrill of a big fire mounting in his veins even at a distance, cranked a telephone on the wall and asked for the fire chief. While he waited, brief instructions were given the yard master, lounging in the office, to bring No. 27 up from the round-house and pick up a flatcar at the team track. 

Up at No. 3's house, on Jefferson Ave., the old chief rolled out of bed, wide awake. Down below horses stamped in their stalls, some equine sense telling them that the "old man" was up. They looked out of their wire screened folding stall doors to where the big steamer stood glistening in the light from the watchman's desk. Harness hung suspended from the ceiling, tugs hooked to the single-trees, needing only a snap of the collar to finish the job.

"Sylvania is burning! Engine Co. No 5 and Hose Co. No. 3, go to Union Station; load on a car for Sylvania". The chief goes back to bed.

A short run from the station, the puffing train makes the open country. They cross Dorr Street, a rutty dirt road. Coming out of the woods near the Bancroft Street crossing, they see the glare in the sky ahead. "Sylvania is burning!" They do not know it, but Sylvania has burned. By the time the ramp is down, the pumper unloaded and drawn to the creek, and a line of hose laid up the hill, little is left to be done.

Day breaks, obliterating the reflection of the fire in the sky, and heaps of ruins mark what once was Sylvania's thriving little "downtown district". Nineteen shopkeepers, milliners, saloon- keepers, cobblers, and merchants did not open their doors that morning.  (The west side of town had burned)

This is from "Fire Fighting in Sylvania, Then and Now"  published on May 10th. and 11th., 1935.  The photo of Toledo's Steam Pumper No. 2 is courtesy of the Toledo Firefighters Museum.