WATTLES RESIDENCE IS TOTALLY DESTROYED BY FIRE SUNDAY MORNING
From the Colon Express, February 10, 1930:
“Property for Several Blocks Carefully Guarded; Neighboring Fire Departments Hold Blaze in Check
Colon’s population is recovering from a scare which it will not soon forget. We were at the mercy of the ravings of a bad fire Sunday morning and as far as our own means of checking it were concerned we were helpless. Luck was with us in a measure – the roads were in excellent condition and when the call for help was sent to our neighbors they all generously responded and made mighty quick runs to Colon. – We can thank our neighbors with their modern equipment for coming to our rescue, otherwise a good portion of Colon would have been ashes – families would have been homeless and undoubtedly numerous business places would be in ruins, never to be replaced. We have much to be thankful for.
Ed Correll Gives Alarm
Mr. and Mrs. Ed Correll were driving through Colon about eleven o’clock Sunday morning when they noticed fire in the upper story of the large double residence of the Wattles families, located just a block west of the business district, directly across from Mrs. Susan Hill’s home. The alarm was given and it was soon realized the small chemical outfit which comprises Colon’s fire fighting equipment could not do a thing more than try to protect other buildings.
Call for Help
Authorities immediately sent out a call for help. The Sturgis community truck was first to arrive, but for lack of hose did not try to fight the main fire but aided in keeping the nearest residence, property of D. G. E. Godfrey, from burning until more help arrived. Coldwater responded next with their very effective equipment and plenty of hose for their own use and a supply to complete a hose line for Sturgis.
With the Coldwater machine pouring about 1,000 gallons per minute and throwing it directly on the large house, which was by that, time a mass of flames and the Sturgis machine with a capacity of 500 gallons per minute, turning their attention to saving nearby buildings the danger point seemed to have passed. The pumps were working from the millrace.
Other Buildings Fired
Sherwood and Mendon also responded quickly and were on the job with their community trucks and did much to help save other property, both towns having very good equipment. Until the main fir was driven down and practically checked by the heavy stream of water from the Coldwater machine, firemen and volunteers were kept busy stopping roof fires started in different parts of town, the particles of burning embers flying in all directions, in fact every building in the north part of town had to be watched. Firemen were just in the nick of time checking a roof fire at the Methodist church which was noticed just as church was dismissed. Roof fires were also checked at residences of W. E. Scott, O. C. Shane, Chester Smith, J. E. Moshere, Jerome Slagle and G. E. Farrand’s, both the house and the barn.
Battle Creek Sent Aid
Battle Creek firemen made the run here with a fire truck but did not hook-up their hose as the fire was under control when they arrived. Sturgis also sent over a city fire truck which was not used as it arrived after the fire was checked.
Fine Home Total Loss
Sunday’s fire completely wiped out one of Colon’s better homes, owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Geo. C. Wattles, Sr., and Mr. and Mrs. Geo. A. Wattles, Jr. the former, Mr. and Mrs. Geo. C., were occupying their part of the house, the west half, and the east part of the house was closed as Mr. and Mrs. Wattles Jr. and daughter and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Robbins and son, have been in Texas for a month and were supposed to be on their way to New Orleans at the time of the fire. A wire was sent them there and the families will undoubtedly return home as quickly as possible after they learn of their loss.
Former Hill Home
The Wattles have owned the home about twelve years, purchasing from Frank E. Hill. Mr. Hill’s mother built the west part as a residence about forty years ago and in 1906 Mr. Hill built the east part so that himself and family might be near his mother, making an unusually large residence.
Not Defective Wiring
It is believed the fire was caused by a defective chimney as it started in the garret near the chimney. Defective wiring could not be blamed as the current was off practically all Sunday forenoon. It is reported the property was covered by insurance to the amount of about $8,000. The estimated valued of the property is over $25,000.
Whether or not the property will be rebuilt will not be known until the family arrives from the south. Mr. and Mrs. Wattles Sr. are making their home in the Kenneth Robbins home for the present.
Fine Home Total Loss
Some Property Saved
While the fire was spreading through the upper story of the house hundreds of willing helpers saved practically all household effects on the first floor of both apartments, but not without much damage.
The only articles of real value on the first floor overlooked was a very choice selection of silverware and linen belonging to Mrs. Wattles Jr. Flames swept down the wide staircase and consumed draperies valued at several hundreds of dollars before rescuers could get to them. Nothing was saved from the basement and very little from the upper story.
Must Have Protection
This nerve-wrecking happening of Sunday should be a lesson to us and we must profit by it. Not that the loss of the Wattles home is of more importance than the loss of George Bond’s home the following day, or any other fire which has occurred. The loss of a home by fire is a serious set-back for anyone.
The fact remains that Colon for a good many years has just been trusting to luck – and we might say our luck has been exceptionally good – but Sunday that luck nearly failed us – just clung by a thread. Had the weather man been on a rampage, had those neighboring fire fighting trucks, particularly from Coldwater and Sturgis, been engaged at home – or been in the least delayed, the story would be different. The north part of Colon village would be in ruins – a loss which Colon can not possibly stand, if possible to prevent. We need every business place in Colon – Yet, for years, we have stood aside and took every chance of having these all wiped out, and mainly because of prejudice more than any other reason. We have every reason to believe it is a factional squabble with neither group getting anywhere. This condition works to great disadvantage regardless of what movement is undertaken. Just a bit of harmony and cooperation on the part of citizens of Colon will work wonders – we will be bound to progress. Right now we plead with you to cast aside all petty grievances and come out into the open – you are a part of Colon so why not work for Colon. Every citizen knows we are at the mercy of the greatest hazard a small town can have – fire. At present we are practically without fire protection, casting no reflections against our volunteer firemen because they surely work wonders with what we have. It is dangerous in the extreme to go on without added protection. We must have it and we urge you to join with the present village council in working out the best plan of procedure – And when that plan is presented study it with an open mind, consult with officials as to its advantages, get the true facts. Do not back too much on gossip and by all means bust the fellow between the eyes who is always sliding around through the alley and quietly whispering to you to “look out for them fellers.” You know we must have fire protection is the village lives and you as a citizen must come forward with an open and fair mind and help select and purchase that equipment – Then carry on and boost for Colon at every opportunity – you will like it. We understand that arrangements have been made for a public meeting to be held at the library auditorium next Tuesday evening, February 10, to discuss purchasing fire fighting equipment. Representatives from several companies will be there to explain the advantages of their machines and present their propositions. It’s up to you but all of you, to be present at that meeting and get first-hand information.”