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December 11, 1916 - Tragedy at the Paddock Merchandising Fire from History of the Toledo Fire Division, 1837-1977

December 11, 1916 will long be remembered in the annals of Toledo’s serious fire tragedies.

Captain Edward Welch and Driver Al Urie of no 6 firehouse were killed at 9 a.m. Monday when a section of the roof and stock from two floors of the paddock merchandising company collapsed and buried them under tons of debris in the basement. .

Pratt was caught by timbers at the edge of the first floor. His cries were heard as soon as the noise of the cave-in subsided. He told firemen he was pinned between the first floor and a pile of debris and timbers and that a heavy ten inch spike was penetrating his back in the area of his kidney.

He begged firemen to dig for the other two because he was conscious and could stick it out. Firemen worked an hour before they uncovered his head and soon had him free of debris to his ankles where they discovered his feet were caught in twisted steel rods.

City workers from all divisions came to help. Someone offered Pratt whiskey, but he refused, taking only cold water. His body was becoming wet and cold. Dr. G. T. Hannah and Dr. L. W. Briggs gave him a hypodermic and directed men to fill empty beer bottles with warm water to line his body for warmth and a Rail Lite employee attached 200 feet of electric line to rig a warming pan for his back. This all contributed greatly to reducing shock and preserving his life while they tried to free him.

Another Rail Lite employee, Tom Martin secured cable cutters and cut the spike off at Pratt’s back, while another brought an acetylene torch to cut the metal from his ankles.

After five hours of grueling work by rescuers and severe pain of Hoseman Pratt, he was taken to St. Vincent’s hospital where he was in serious condition.

Monsignor J. T. O’Connell and Rev. George A. Brannigan, pastor of Good Shepherd Church, climbed down ladders and administered last rites for Captain Welch and Driver Urie after making sure Hoseman Pratt was attended to.

Watching anxiously and scanning each face of the rescue workers as they came from the basement was the wife of Al IUrie. When no familiar face appeared, she resumed her quiet sobbing thinking of her five fatherless children at home.

Neighbors at the Pratt home were trying to console Mrs. Pratt and her two children and trying to restrain her from coming to the scene.

Mrs. Welch went to St. Vincent’s and then to fire headquarters where she bravely held aback her grief. Her husband had only one year to serve before being pensioned. She knew she had to return home and share her sadness with her six children.

Chief Pelling said damage was estimated at more than $100,000 to building and stock which consisted mostly of wrapping paper, burlap, baskets, woodenware, and package merchandising.