Fifty Years Ago This Month
Karen M. Vincent
Minnetrista Director of Collections
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February 28, 1967, was a bitterly cold night with temperatures hovering around ten degrees, when an alarm came into Muncie’s Fire Station Number One at about 8 p.m. There was a fire at Minnetrista, the former home of the Frank C. and Elizabeth Brady Ball family. The firefighters were on the scene within five minutes. The fire was so intense and widespread that a second alarm was issued soon after. A general alarm, calling in all off-duty firefighters, was issued at 9:06 p.m.
When they arrived, firefighters quickly doused the flames near the furnace in the basement, but then, found fire in the walls. They tried using fire axes, but unfortunately, the axes bounced off of the approximately 2” x 10” roughhewn lumber covering the inside walls. Next, they checked the exterior of the house, but the limestone facing was approximately 16 inches thick, preventing access to the walls that way. Since they couldn’t get through the walls, the firefighters set up the aerial truck to get water on the flames coming through the roof, but that didn’t work since they only had one tool that could cut through the copper roof.
Fighting the fire was an all-night struggle, and the next day firefighters were still pouring water on the ruins of the house. Seven pieces of equipment were used at the fire. The ladder on the aerial truck froze in place and couldn’t be lowered until it thawed. More than fifty firefighters fought the fire. Three received minor injuries.
Hurley Goodall, a firefighter on the scene, said “Tuesday night, February 28, 1967, would prove to be one of the most difficult and most frustrating nights of my firefighting career. As Muncie lost one of its landmarks we could see the flames and could not get to them to put it out.”