My Dad’s Story – Part Four

Feb 12, 2020

HYNDMAN FIRE – 1949, Christmas Eve

I remember the Hyndman fire, and being disappointed that I couldn’t go and help. Those were the days when, if there was a fire nearby, the boys were dismissed from school to help with the fire if they wanted to. Who didn’t? This was also during the time when teachers were allowed to spank the students, and PTA meetings were when parents would meet with the teachers to discuss the child/student after school hours (unlike today when school is let out so parents can meet with teachers and PTA meetings are meetings to discuss fundraisers, helps for the school, or anything else that might be of concern… but no actual meeting with the teachers) My brother, Keith, was spanked…so hard that it left marks and bruises.   

Images of the Hyndman Fire, taken by me (Max)

*they need to be cropped and touched up a little, but for now, I like the old time feel

Back to the Hyndman Fire: – my family was in town visiting with the Zimmerman’s (family friends) when we heard the news on the radio (we didn’t have television then). My cousin, Charlotte (not to be confused with my future wife) was on phone dispatch that night, before the phone lines went down. My brothers and I wanted to help, but my parents felt it was too dangerous. It was also felt that the fire dept wouldn’t let us close enough to help. When the fire was over, it had burnt down half the town.

Excerpt from geneology website…



Hyndman, Pa., Dec. 25. — (UP) — Fire burned out the business center of Hyndman Sunday night and the flames threatened the entire town of 1,500 people before being brought under control.
Pennsylvania state police received an emergency call from a squad car in Hyndman asking for a strong force of officers to prevent looting.
The squad car radioed that the center of the town was burned out and “houses around the town are burning.”
Red Cross officials from surrounding towns were summoned, one report said that the Red Cross at Cumberland had designated Hyndman as a disaster area. The Red Cross disaster chairman at Bedford left for the scene.
Fifteen to 20 fire companies raced to the mountain town, 12 miles from Cumberland, Md., to help fight the flames. Firemen for 30 miles around were called away from their Christmas dinners to answer the emergency.
Telephone communications to the stricken community were knocked out. State Police at Bedford said they got their first report at 6 p.m. More than two hours later the police reported the fire “continuing to spread to frame dwellings.”
Police said they had no information as to the cause of the fire and no reports of any dead or injured. Officers said that it was the second fire to hit Hyndman in a week. A large lumber yard was destroyed in the first fire.
Source of the fire could not be determined immediately. One report said it started in a general store.
The town lies in the Allegheny mountains about 12 miles from Cumberland, Md., and 25 miles from Bedford.
Fire companies throughout the mountainous area surrounding Hyndman were called to the scene. Hospitals were alerted, but no one yet was able to offer an immediate estimate of the damage, because of communication failure.
The town is composed mostly of frame buildings, and state police in Bedford county feared that “the whole town might go up” unless the blaze was quickly brought under control.
The American Red Cross designated the town a disaster area and along with all volunteer companies in the area, sent out calls for help.
Volunteer help was hindered in reaching the scene by road blocks which were set up all around the town. State and local police refused to allow anyone to enter the town unless they were on “official business.”

Billings Gazette Montana 1949-12-26

One day, the middle school caught fire. This happened in Wiley Ford, in 1951 or 52. When the fire dept determined that fighting the fire was useless, they just let it burn.  After that, school was held in the firehouse for a while.

That’s my dad’s story so far! Hoped you enjoyed reading!

To read part three, click here.

To read from the beginning, click here.

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