Barton, VT Business Section Fire, Aug 1938


Barton, Vt., Aug. 12 (AP) -- Inspectors of the Vermont fire marshal's office poked through ruins of three business blocks and two houses today in an effort to determine what exploded an empty 1,000-Gallon gasoline tank in a garage here and started a $200,000 fire.
Officials said the loss was the largest ever recorded in this town, 20 miles from the Canadian border, with a population of 3,500.
After a preliminary investigation fire officials suggested a discarded cigarette apparently exploded fumes within the tank. The drum, mounted on a truck, had been brought to the garage for repair.
The blast blew the head of the tank 75 feet, shattered scores of windows, blew GEORGE KINNEY into the street and burned his hands, and started flames racing through the garage.
The fire destroyed 45 automobiles and trucks in the three-story Webster motor sales garage and storage room, jumped across the street to the Webster feed store, then to the three-story Chutter block, where two floors and basement were occupied by the W. E. Foss general store.
Flames swept across the Barton River, which runs under the garage foundations, and leveled houses 100 yards away. Their tenants, Clarence Marcotte, Philemon Paquette and Joseph Salvatore, saved only a few belongings.
Firemen from Newport, Orleans and Lyndonville, assisting Barton forces, fought three hours before controlling the flames. Twenty-three hose lines went into action.
Flying embers set fire to eight other buildings, but none was seriously damaged. They included the nearby Crystal Lake Hotel and the Barton fire station, where roof fires started.

North Adams Transcript Massachusetts 1938-08-12


I bought a stack of old

I bought a stack of old letters years ago, an archive saved by a Mrs. F.J. Houser from all her children over the years. Her daughter, Midge, wrote her on Aug 14, 1938. From what I can tell, she was at the Songadeewin girls camp in Barton at the time of the fire. At the end of the letter she gives this interesting account of the fire to her mother, and I quote:

"Oh gosh yes I almost forgot to tell you. Barton practically burned out thurs. The chevy place went with 50 cars, a feed house, a dept store, and three dwellings all burned down. The biggest fire in the history of northern vermont. and here's how. Doc got a big empty gas tank and he was going to bring it to camp for a water tank. He wanted a hole bored in the side of it. They were going to fill it with water first to prevent any risk but they didn't for some reason and just when they were boring the hole the guy (not doc) lit a cigaret and the thing exploded. He wasn't hurt at all but lots of people were- none critically i guess. It sure caused a lot of excitement around here. I never saw Doc look so woe be gone. It wasn't his fault but i know he feels the responsibility. Poor Barton- There wasn't much there anyhow, and now it's practically off the map."

I thought this contemporary account would be an interesting supplement to the post.