The History of Fires and Firefighting in Durbin

Jason Bauserman has combed through the town records in Durbin and tells us some stories about a 1913 fire there and early prevention and firefighting in that town.

Durbin Bank shortly after the 1913 fire

Old Durban Bank Building 2021

“In the minutes of the old books up here in the Durbin Town Hall, there was a fire on the East end – now that’s the end where you come in from Bartow and Frank – across from the railroad station, the Depot there” said Bauserman. “I had heard that there was a fire, and I finally came across it in the minutes. It actually happened in early July of 1913. And, that’s a little fishy -in July you have a fire? I mean, normally you aren’t burning any wood, or anything at that time (of the year.) But there were a lot of wooden buildings there. In fact, that is where the Durbin Drugstore was – just about right across from the Depot. That was the first building to burn, and evidently, they just burned right down to the bank building, which still stands. There were three or four big buildings that did burn in that July, It was pretty bad. When it did get down to the bank building, We do have a picture of people out front, but the side of the building still has a lot of black smoke on it (in the old picture) and it looks like the windows were burned out on that side, where there was wood at the bank building, and you can see that from the picture.”

“Right after that, a couple of things happened. First of all, the Mayor at that time was Kenna Rexrode. And they came up with an ordinance that any other building on Main Street -any other business that was to be built, was to be built of fire-proof material only -masonry, bricks, block, stone, any kind of a fire-proof thing- was what was passed through (Town) Council. And, that pretty well has held true. The buildings that did go back were built that way.”

“I also wanted to add there that Mayor Kenna Rexrode happened to be a mason, and did masonry work. I’ve got some pictures of Kenna Rexrode here. He was a big. Strapping, strong looking fellow, and a big hunter. I mean, there’s some pictures up here (in the Town Hall) of bear hunts. I think he was right out in front with the rest of them in with the bears in front of a store (in the pictures.)

“The other story that I want to talk about (is) at a Durbin Town Council meeting -now this was probably around 1914-1915- there were two or three sentences in the book- it was another ordinance, but it read (that the) Durbin Town Council would like to start a fire department. And, what they did was they ordered one short ladder, one long ladder and one hundred buckets to fight fires with. And so obviously they were planning on just getting down to the river and passing the bucket brigade on up to the fire. And so that was the beginning of the BFD -the Bartow, Frank, Durbin Fire Department. And, they have done very well. They have been just a great department. They’ve been up here for years, and we’ve had a lot of great volunteers that have served on the BFD and we’re real proud of our fire department here on the Northern End.”

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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