Smoke pours from an opening at the back side of the main building, closest to the area of the fire. Firemen wear masks as they attempt to locate the smoldering blaze.
Captain Walter Stout, Richmond Police officer, back to camera, and Jimmy Cain, right, operate emergency Civil Defense radio equipment in the Civil Defense Headquarters at the City Building Thursday morning. Paul Smith, Civil Defense Chief is shown standing, watching and directing the emergency operations.
Radio Communications Provide Only Link;
By late tonight, telephone users with numbers starting with 935 may make emergency contacts by dialing 935-1161, 935-1171, or 935-1181. Operators on duty at sub-stations will relay the message to a police radio unit standing by.
Two Firemen Overcome;
Towns Send Help
Those with telephones starting with 973 can make emergency contacts through 973-1162, 973-1163, or 973-1164.
Telephones starting 935 are serviced by Substation No. 3, in the alley between South Eighth and Ninth, south of South G. Those with 973 are served through Substation No.2, on South Erst Ninth between Main and A.
Similar service is being planned for Substation No. 1, a block south of Richmond Ave., on North West First St., with a 957-prefix.
So far, no emergency service has been arranged for other phones, representing about 70 percent, but equipment is being rushed from other Indiana cities, and from General Telephone utilities in Michigan an Pennsylvania.
As temporary units arrive, more numbers will be added to those able to make calls. A list of critical phones will be taken care of first.
Meanwhile, starting late tonight, emergency long distance calls may be made by anyone coming to the business office, 31 North Ninth St., which will be open 24 hours a day until further notice. Phone officials stress that only emergency calls can be handled. The office will be open for business Friday as usual.
Fire of an undetermined origin Thursday morning caused damage estimated at more that $1 million to the General Telephone Co. of Indiana, 31 North Ninth St.
Except for radio communication, Richmond was isolated from the outside world.
Seventy percent of Richmond's 26,000 telephones were knocked out, and the rest serviced out of substations could be in contact only with each other.
Two Firemen OvercomeTwo firemen were overcome by dense smoke.
Ervine Perkins, 36 years old, of No. 2 Company, was taken to Reid Memorial Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. He was overcome by the dense, acrid smoke. His condition was good later in the day.
Elwood Richardson, also of No. 2 Company, was taken to his home.
Telephones with these prefixes have been knocked out of service:962, 966 and 969.
Telephones served out of substations, with prefixes 973 (west side) 935 (south side), and 957 (northwest side) can call any other number with the same prefix or any other unaffected prefixes.
Fire Out At 10 A.M.William P. Rigdon, Richmond manager, said that the fire which started at 6:45 a.m., was not put out until 10 a.m. "and we are now mopping up."
Emergency telephone equipment units were being rushed to Richmond from Fort Wayne, Kokomo and Indianapolis. They were expected momentarily.
They will be set up in trailers on the phone company's parking lot at the rear of the main building. How long it will be before they can be put into use was not known immediately, but Rigdon says "emergency numbers" will be taken care of first.
An exchange this large will require heavy-duty emergency equipment. It is possible some extra use may be made of substations, which were not affected.
Dorothera Logan, employed as a housekeeper, first noticed the fire at 6:45 a.m. when she opened the switchroom door, on the second floor of the old building.
"She saw the flames on the main frame in the switch room," Rigdon said. The main frame is the equipment linked to an underground connection for every line coming in. From it, the calls go in and out of switching equipment. It is the lifeblood of the utility.
When fire hit the main frame, it was only a matter of a few minutes before telephone communications were cut off. Only two calls went out. One was to the Fire Department. The other was to the chief operator. A call to Rigdon was cut off before it could be completed.
15 In BuildingApproximately 15 persons were in the building but none was hurt. Most of them were log distance operators in an immediately adjoining area.
Because of the potential spread of the blaze, and the difficulty in fighting it, all available fire companies were summoned. Firemen's off days were cancelled.
Radio communication became the only way available and it was not long before emergency hookups were being established by Civil Defense, city, county and state police, Citizen Bands and amateur operators.
Separate stories appear elsewhere.
Richmond's commercial radio stations, WKBV, WGLM, and WHON were a valuable help.
State police cars and squad cars roamed the streets. Radio equipment was set up at the city building, at Reid Memorial Hospital, at fire stations. Industries pitched in. Those with two way radio communications set up trucks at spots over the city.
Fire fighters came from Cambridge City, Williamsburg, Greensfork, Centerville, Liberty, Fountain City, Milton, Dublin and Hagerstown. Some were at the scene of the blaze. Others stood by at local fire stations. Boston sent a truck that was not needed. All told, eight pieces of equipment and 60 men came to help.
Firemen fighting the blaze first used chemicals because of the electrical equipment involved, but its effectiveness and the supply were inadequate.
Although electrical equipment is vunerable to water, firemen had to pour tons of it to put out the stubborn blaze.
The fire itself was confined to the second floor of the old telephone company building, but smoke and water spread not only to that structure but to the comparitively new building adjoining it to the north.
Water was standing everywhere.
With the temperatures near zero, ice formed on the street, sidewalk, and homes. Telephone company office girls served hot coffee to firemen. It came from the nearby First Federal building.
The toxic smoke was a stuborn handicap and firemen who finally got to the second floor had to wear gas masks to do it.
The flames spread to a false ceiling and firemen had to chop occurred the roof and through the side of the building.
An air compressor was used to knock through the brick, as well as a fire department battering ram. Repairs on that part of the building have already started.
Most of the damage was to the expensive equipment. How much was done by smoke or water in the Direct Distance Dialing facilities in the adjoining building so far was not known.
The second floor, scene of the blaze, covers an area of about 10,000 square feet. Local and toll switching equipment was located there
Damaged UndeterminedHow much damage, if any, to utility records so far has not been determined.
Rigdon said until investigators can make a thorough check, the company has "no idea whatsoever" what caused the fire. There is someone in the building at all times.
A temporary management co-ordinating center has been set up by the telephone company in the YMCA building and will continue ti operate from there during the emergency.
A hurriedly called meeting about mid-morning was attended by Robert Twenty-third, division manager; William P. Rigdon, Richmond manager; G. A. Richwine, division plant manager; Larry Bricker, division traffic manager; G. A. Shick, division equipment supervisor; Willis Noll, district plant supervisor.
Louis Pells of Fort Wayne, safety director, happened to be in Richmond overnight and sat in on the meeting.
A news center has been set up by the telephone company in one of the radio station buildings.
How much of the damage is covered by insurance so far was not known, Rigdon said.
Telephone officials went to Centerville to make some phone calls and made use of police radio for others.
The telephone utility was purchased by General Telephone Co., from Richmond Home Telephone Co,, in December of 1960.
Radio Units Over City To Help Spread Word Of Emergencies
Plans to co-ordinate emergency facilities made necessary by the loss of telephone service were made by police, fire, sheriff's, Indiana State Police and civilian defense departments Thursday noon at the City Hall.
All residents are urged to abide by emergency conditions until full phone service is restored.
The plan is in effect until the emergency ends.
Chief Ernest Fredricks said the Fire Department's only means of communication now is by the fire alarm box system. A list of fire box locations is elsewhere on this page. Fredricks added that cruising police cars can be stopped and a fire can be reported to a fire station by radio.
Chief William Stultz said there are approximately 30 citizen band radio operators at work as well as 12 mobile units of the police department. Any of these can be contacted if necessary and the aid of a doctor or hospitalization can be handled by radio.
He said special guards have been placed in banks and other places.
Commenting on the possible problem of crime, vandalism and "Foolishness," mayor Edward L. Cordell said:
"We are in a state of emergency. There will be no foolishness tolerated. There is sufficient coverage to assure protection. Violators will be punished as stiffly as the law permits."
Indiana State Police Lieutenant James Sheets, commander of the Connersville post, said 15 of his units have been brought into the city for assistance to local police, both by radios in their autos and other help if needed.
More Co-ordination DueThese units are stationed throughout the city. A base radio station is being sent here from Indianapolis by the State Police. This will enable more co-ordinated communications.
Sheriff H. D. McCann, in reminding that the phones at the county jail are also out, said persons are urged to contact Centerville, Cambridge City and Hagerstown police stations according to their area.
He said a radio sub-station is set up in his residence for the northeaster section of the county giving service to residents in Fountain City, Bethel, Whitewater, Williamsburg, Greensfork and Economy. The phones are working and the number to call is 2541.
Radio contact can be made to the jail by contacting one of the sub-stations or a citizen band operator.
Paul Smith, civilian defense director, said the citizens band radio base station in the city building is serving as the center for most emergency dispatches. The Amateur radio group also is in service.
A list of the location of such operators is carried on Page 4. It should be clipped for use during the emergency.
Dayton and Montgomery county offered mobile police radio units to help, but it was decided that they are not needed presently.
Several Red Cross Disaster units form nearby cities also offered aid.
Avco officials have offered to try to get mobile telephone equipment brought to Richmond as might be available at military locations nearby. The local plant, defense manufacturer, cited the important need of telephones.
County Firemen PraisedChief Fredricks joined with other city officials in praising the Wayne County Firemen's association for its help. Men and equipment stood by at each local station during the fire.
Communication was possible between stations as a result of the county group's radio connections.
Fredricks said the emergency points to the need for the county and Richmond departments being on the same radio band.
He sited the need of local departments also having more equipment to fight fires where there are fire gasses such as developed in the Thursday morning blaze.
In case you need the fire department you can go to the nearest fire alarm box in your neighborhood. If this becomes necessary stay at the alarm box until firemen arrive so that you can take them to the fire. Residents are asked to check the list. Circuit 6 Boxes are "out of order." Residents of this area must report fires to the closest fire station.
All fire stations are in contact with each other via radio. The Wayne County Firemen's Association also is manning local stations with trucks and personnel.
Thursday's fire at the General Telephone Co. has caused the third, and by far the most serious, major outage of local service in the past six years.
Most recent occurred Nov. 16, 1965, when water soaked into two large underground cables near North Tenth and F Streets. About half of the city's 26,000 telephones were out of service, many of them for almost 15 hours.
Most emergency phones, on the 962* lines, were restored about three and one-half hours after the trouble was noted, but some were not in back in service until late that night.
A bulldozer was blamed for a slashed cable which cut off most long distance service on Sept. 9, 1959. The machine was working at the corner of U.S. 27 and Farlow Beelor Road, south of the city, when it slashed a 207-wire long-distance cable.
The cut cable virtually isolated the city from incoming and outgoing telephone service, as it provided the only circuits for long distance service. It linked the lines of the then Richmond Home Telephone Co. with cross country circuits of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co.
The broken cable was not located for more than four hour after the accident occurred, and service was out another eight hours while repairmen spiced each wire back together.
The main theme of meetings between firemen of Wayne county and Richmond Fire Department were born out during the Thursday morning emergency.
For several months, Chief Ernest Fredricks of Richmond has preached the need of a close tie between county and city departments. His words did not fall on deaf ears as this cooperation became a reality in the General Telephone Co. Fire.
Critics of the combined efforts have said that Richmond's Fire Department was adequate to handle any city emergency. Therefore, the tie-up between county and city would result in use of city equipment to battle a county fire.
Chief Fredricks has debated this idea continually by saying that the major demand for help could come from an emergency in Richmond. Again his words have proven true.
Mal Price, educational officer of the Wayne County Firemen, and Don McCullough, public relations officer, have urged the need for a centrally located dispatching system that would tie all Wayne County, including Richmond with one dispatcher.
The reason for their encouragement for such a setup was based on, "What should happen if the telephone system broke down."
They received their answer at 7:24 a.m. Thursday.
In the Thursday emergency word was received throughout the county by other methods.
Emergency short wave radio receivers were set up in the newsroom of The Palladium-Item Thursday to assure publication of afternoon and morning editions of the newspaper.
When telephones went out of service, Richmond lost practically all contact with the nation's news centers.
Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI) services halted abruptly. Teletypes and photo machines stopped.
Through Western Union, an emergency line was opened to link The Palladium-Item with the Indianapolis office of the AP. While firemen were still battling the fire at General Telephone Co., the first story was transmitted from Indianapolis to the newspaper.
Two-meter, amateur radio equipment soon was set up in the News Department.
Issues CallFloyd Russell, an amateur radio operator and an engraver for the newspaper, issued a call for volunteers to report to City Hall. Civil defense officials were among the first to report. James Cain was in charge at City Hall.
Russell and Jerry Clackum set up sending and receiving equipment to keep the newspaper in touch with the outside world. Throughout the Indiana Phone network, Richmond was soon in touch with Connersville, Indianapolis, Hagerstown, Lynn and Lafayette.
Charles Sperling served as "net control" for the amateurs. Phil Wilson, 2520 North West A St., helped relay messages out of the city to other parts of Indiana and Ohio.
About 10 amateur radio operators were on duty Thursday before noon. About 20 operators, including 10 in mobile units, will be on duty Thursday night.
Sperling is manager of the Amateur Radio Emergency Corps. He said several operators were located in various sections of the city. Some were in autos and station wagons.
Word was received at 12:15 p.m. that a mobile unit was being dispatched from Indianapolis. It will report to the civil defense office at the City Hall.
One company of Richmond firemen fought a blaze in the basement of a double house at 319-321 North Eighth St. Thursday Morning at the height of the General Telephone blaze.
A man passing the scene of the fire drove to Central fire headquarters in the City building and reported the fire.
Firemen said an overheated furnace set fire to joists under the floor of the building on both sides of the house.
The amount of damage was not reported, but it was not believed to be severe.
Civil Defense officials said Williamsburg, Whitewater, Webster and Fountain City were to call Phone 2541 in Economy in case of fire or any other emergency.
Centerville residents were to call 4022 for emergencies involving use of Richmond telephones.
Cambridge City residents were told to call the city building for a relay of messages.
Transcribed by James E. Bellaire
Copyright 1965 Palladium-Item