Fires were a constant threat on the Great Plains. It was a particular threat to towns, with wooden buildings located close to each other. On this date in 1908, Hope, North Dakota was hit by fire. The workshop of the T.A. Lyons harness shop went up in flames, a fire that spread rapidly to the attic Fulmer and Brimer’s jewelry store. The oil heater on the stitching machine in the harness shop had overheated. The shop had closed for lunch, so the fire had ten minutes to grow before it was noticed by passersby.
The pedestrians immediately turned in a fire alarm. The newspaper described how “in a very few minutes the fire laddies were playing three streams of water in the buildings.” It looked for a time as if both buildings were doomed. Citizens pitched in to save the stock of the jewelry store. They also braved the heat and flames to save the furniture of Mr. Lyons, who lived in an apartment over his harness shop. The cost of the fire was estimated to be $3,500, but it could have been much worse.
Hope had organized a fire department early in its history. An ad in the December 17, 1883 Hope Pioneer urged every man to turn out to help organize the fire company. Fire Company #1 was launched the following month. The town would purchase axes, buckets, and ladders. In 1887 the town purchased a fire engine, but it never functioned well. An 1891 fire destroyed several buildings at a cost of $11,000. An 1893 fire destroyed $15,000 worth of property.
Hope was determined to eliminate the problem of fire. A new fire hall was built in 1900. Fifteen cisterns were built in locations throughout the town and a new hand pumper was purchased. Six to eight men worked on each side of the pumper, and it was used to contain a 1903 fire to just one building.
In 1907 the city council authorized the purchase of a new fire engine. There was considerable complaining at the time about spending the money. But after the harness shop fire, citizens of Hope agreed that the new engine had paid for itself twice over. It was generally agreed that the “fire boys” should get whatever they wanted.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Hope Pioneer. “Fire Again Visits Hope.” Hope ND. 20 August 1908. Page 5.
Hope Fire Department. http://www.webfamilytree.com/Hope_Centennial/organizations/hope_fire_department.php Accessed 20 July 2019.