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  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne. According to the clock at right, they had been working for about and hour in this photo. Crews worked for eight more hours to quell the blaze.

  • File February 1962: A fire gutted buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne. Icicles hang off the buildings.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 11, 1962: The day after the fire, appliances stand in inches of water and icicles hang from the ceiling on the interior of the buildings.

  • File February 1962: Workers remove merchandise from the buildings.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Ice covers equipment used to fight the fire.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Nine people were taking to a hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: A view from above as three buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer are ablaze in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Fire crews battle a blaze at three buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File February 1962: A fire gutted buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File February 1962: A fire gutted buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 11, 1962: The day after the fire, icicles hang from the ceiling on the interior of the buildings.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Crowds gather on the street and atop a parking garage to watch emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: Emergency crews work as a fire guts buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 10, 1962: A view from above as three buildings occupied by Wolf & Dessauer are ablaze in downtown Fort Wayne.

  • File Feb. 11, 1962: A mannequin is in pieces outside the Wolf & Dessauer buildings that were gutted in the previous day's fire.

  • File Feb 10, 1962: Smoke billows out of one of the buildings.

Thursday, February 22, 2018 1:00 am

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Feb. 10, 1962 - Wolf & Dessauer fire

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Throwback Thursday appears the last week of the month. To see more archive photos throughout the month, follow @JGFeatures on Twitter. To suggest a date or event to be featured, email Corey McMaken at cmcmaken@jg.net or call 461-8475.

It didn't take long for the city to know something out of the ordinary was going on the afternoon of Feb. 10, 1962. Billowing clouds of smoke were rising from downtown blocking out the sun over parts of Fort Wayne.

The block of Washington Boulevard between Clinton and Calhoun streets was ablaze in what would be called the worst fire in the city's history. Three buildings occupied by the Wolf & Dessauer department store were gutted. All three were were connected and two of several fire doors failed to activate, which allowed the fire to spread quickly from one building to another.

Some confusion at the beginning of the fire delayed fire crews who first reported to the new W&D store nearby and found no fire.

As fire crews fought the blaze for nine hours, more than 100 volunteers kept them supplied with coffee, doughnuts, sandwiches and soup. A huge crowd of onlookers gathered to watch the battle despite the weather being cold enough to create large icicles where water from fire hoses ran down walls. Officials estimated between 5 million and 7 million gallons of water were used.

Nine people, including three firemen, were treated for smoke inhalation. Early estimates suggested the losses could be around $3 million.

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These stories appeared alongside the main stories about the fire on the front page of The Journal Gazette on Feb. 11, 1962:

CHIEF CLARK LEAVES FIRE; HAS FIRE ALARM AT HOME

"Attention, Chief Clark. Attention, Chief Clark. Your house is on fire."

This was a message that blared from radios in the police cars surrounding the downtown fire area yesterday.

"I thought that someone was kidding me at first," the police chief (Paul Clark) said, "but I checked and found my garage was on fire, so I went home." ...

Units from the Anthony Wayne Fire Station and Waynedale answered the call to the chief's home where an overheated boiler and shorted electrical wiring caused approximately $1,300 damage.

Mrs. Clark saw the fire and turned in the alarm. After viewing the damage at his home, Chief Clark returned to the bigger one downtown.

BILLOWS OF SMOKE QUICKLY ALERT ENTIRE CITY OF FIRE

Most all of Fort Wayne was alerted quickly yesterday that a disastrous fire was underway.

Huge billows of black smoke from the downtown fire drifted over the city within a half hour after the alarm was sounded. Traffic – most of it headed for the fire area – was as heavy as the smoke.

To handle the auto and pedestrian deluge and the dangers that mounted by the hour downtown, Chief of Police Paul Clark mobilized 100 police officers, 125 Marine Reservists, a group of the Sheriff's Auxiliary and 20 Civil Defense workers. Many of them were still on duty late last night.

Operators of stores in the immediate fire area were unable to ascertain last night whether their merchandise or fixtures had been damaged by the smoke which obscured the sun and spread out westward beyond the city limits. A black column of smoke still stretched into the sky as darkness fell last night.

Fishman's Women's Apparel Store, 917 S. Calhoun St., was the closest in proximity to the flames, being in the same block. Shortly after 1 p.m., the store was ordered evacuated. Stan Fishman reported that as he and his brother were putting books away in the safe of their store, smoke had begun to sift into the establishment.

The Grand Leader, across Calhoun Street, was directly in the path of the smoke but no report of damage was available.

At the rear of the burning buildings, just across a narrow alley, windows in the rear of buildings facing on East Wayne Street were broken out by heat from the blaze. Firemen sprayed the area with water and damage to the Wayne Street buildings was held to a minimum.

City Utility trucks equipped with Hi-Ranger equipment, sometimes called Cherry Pickers, which lift linemen up to electrical distribution lines, were put into service with firemen directing streams of water from hose lines hoisted as high as possible at the fire scene.

Public Utility servicemen also were called and shut off the various services to the surrounding area as quickly as possible to reduce danger of explosions.