When filing/archiving some donations at the genealogy library I held in my hand a booklet of 65 pages. It had been compiled by the Wilmington Writers – a group first begun in 1972. This particular item was compiled and published in 1998. I briefly leafed through the pages and found the individual contributions to be a wonderful insight into some local people. Many of the contributors are now deceased but I wish to share one of their stories. I am sure our readers will recognize many of the names.
The first item is: Get The Axe by Harry Hague III. As chief of the Wilmington Fire Department I was conducting a meeting at the fire station when we received a call of a fire in an apartment house at the corner of Library Avenue and North Walnut Street. On arrival I sent two men to check the basement where the fire had started and I went to the second floor to see if the fire had spread. It had.
I could see, as I reached the top of the stair, that flames were shooting up around a floor register. Another fireman, Dr. Neil Myers, was right behind me and I said, “Captain, go get an axe.” I kept trying to direct the stream from the one and one-half inch fire hose into the base of the fire but couldn’t get to it because of the heavy smoke. “Neil”, I said, “Where’s the axe?” “ I sent a man for it, but I’ll check.” Several minutes later, Neil said. “He’ll be right back.”
Some time later, I again said, “Neil, where is that axe?” Neil said, “I’ll check.” A few minutes later, Neil said again, “He’ll be right back.” Another wait of several minutes and smoke getting thicker and thicker. “Neil,” I said, “Where the ***** is that axe?” Neil said, “I’ll check again.”
When Neil came back he had the axe. We proceeded to slide into the attic and open up around the heat duct so we could put the stream of water to good use. This enabled us to finally extinguish the fire and we still held the damage to a minimum amount.
As we were starting back down from the attic Neil showed me the cause of the fireman who apparently would not obey orders. On the wall opposite the foot of the stair was a full-length mirror. As Neil would edge down the stairway, he would see through the smoke the image of a fireman and would tell that fireman to “Go get us an axe!!”
Of course, that image was Neil’s reflection in the mirror. After the fire was completely extinguished and all hoses and equipment loaded back on the truck, we returned to the station. It was later ascertained that the damage to the apartment house was not too extensive, and in fact that building is still in use.
We could still have used that missing fireman.
Beth Mitchell is a longtime Clinton County History Center volunteer. She writes articles for its quarterly newsletter about a variety of past Clinton Countians and genealogy subjects.