Three Buildings Destroyed, Six Damaged, Six Firemen Injured in City’s Worst Fire

Six firemen were hurt and three of them hospitalized as firemen early this morning fought what Fire Chief Letcher Martin terms the biggest fire in Henderson history.
Chief Martin estimates fire damage at $250,000 in the fire which leveled two buildings, gutted a third and damaged six others on Water Street between First and Washington streets. Hurt in the fire were Chief Martin; Bailey Gore, 27. of 108 S. Elm-st, a volunteer: Everett Cecil, 50, of 1124 Washington-st; James Davis, 36, of 1312 Helm-st: Truman Sutton, 53; of 17 Center-cir, and William Hayes, 39, Henderson. Bailey Gore is assistant football coach, at Henderson City High School.
Leveled by the blaze were the old three-story Argue Tobacco Company warehouse on Water Street at the corner of First, and the one-story frame and corrugated iron ‘Soaper Tobacco warehouse, just across Water Street from the Argue building.

Gutted by the fire was a two story brick building, also part of the old Argue Tobacco Company.
It faced Water Street and stood next to the frame building. Chief Martin said serious water damage was done to the Justice Hatchery, across First Street from the frame Argue building. Some fire damage was done to the hatchery, he said. The chief said cause of the fire is undetermined, although “it apparently broke out in the old Argue building, which was in the process of being razed.

First alarm was received by the Fire Department, two blocks away, at about 11:30 p.m. chief said. He immediately had police contact Evansville and Owensboro. Three Evansville pumpers and about 20 Evansville firemen were sent to the scene and Owensboro equipment was held on alert. Some fire damage was done to a house on Water Street, next to the Justice Hatchery, the chief said, along with water and smoke damage. Spot fires broke out on the roofs of Second Street buildings, including Hall’s Tavern, a building next to it, and Moffett’s Appliances. Chief Martin said, and at the D & T Plumbing Company, on First Street across the street from the Argue Building. They were put out by hand extinguishers, he added. The chief said the fire was brought under control about 4 a.m., but firemen were still pouring water on ruins of the Argue buildings this morning.

Believed most seriously hurt is Bailey Gore. Chief. Martin said Gore has first and second degree burns about the head and neck. He and Cecil and Davis are all reported in fair condition at Methodist Hospital today. Chief Martin said Cecil has burns about the face, neck, and ears and a possible chest injury. Davis has burns about the face hair and ears, the chief said. Hayes has two broken ribs, the chief said. Chief Martin has burns on his fingers and Sutton’s feet were scalded by hot water.

The men were hurt when an explosion rocked a brick Argue Tobacco Company building, blowing in a wall. Chief Martin says he believes the explosion was caused by propane gas in the basement of the brick building. Five of the men were working near a side wall of the building when the explosion occurred at a point between the firmen and Water Street. The force of the explosion blew flames from the basement of the burned building onto the men who were burned. Hayes was thrown against the foundation of an adjoining building, the chief said, breaking his ribs, and the explosion blew hot water into Sutton’s boots, scalding his feet. All the men followed the hose line to safety.

Chief Martin said he went back into the area where the men had been to determine if any one was still there and he fourd a, fire man’s helinet lying on the ground Thinking someone might be buried under the debris. he started removing bricks and burned his fingers on the hot bricks.


Evansville Press September 13, 1956