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$30,000 Fire Levels Buildings in Business Section at Portage
Two Stores, Restaurant and Filling Station Burn as Residents Battle Flames in Temperature of Four Degrees Above Zero.

Bowling Green, Dec 23, 1935 - Fire of unknown cause swept the business section of Portage, near here, early Sunday, causing damage of between $30,000 and $35,000. The village’s only two grocery stores a barber shop, a filling station and a restaurant were leveled and the business block across the street was seared by the fire which burned for more than two hours while volunteers, working in a temperature of four degrees above zero, carried water from wells.

The heroic efforts of volunteers saved the Winton hardware store, which also was endangered Feb. 7, 1928, when fire destroyed two adjacent buildings.

Firemen Helpless

The fire Sunday was discovered by Sid Gillan, Portage, a milk truck driver who found the Winton and Kinney general store in flames at 5 am. Volunteer firemen were helpless with no water system to fight the flames. The L. S. Hatfield grocery store, Dale McKinnis’ barber shop, Al Koontz’ filling station and Ruby Hottinger’s restaurant buildings, all frame buildings, were burned.

Volunteer fire departments from Cygnet and Weston hurried to the village. Bowling Green sent a truck, but all the firemen accomplished was the saving of buildings across the street and residences in the vicinity.

Charles Thiebaut, who lived over the Hottinger restaurant, and his family saved most of their personal belongings before the fire spread to that building. Deputy Sheriffs Ray Bowers and Clarence Marsh were sent to the village by Sheriff Arnold Isch to detour traffic around Main Street because of electric power lines which had fallen when poles burned off below the cross arms.

Losses Partly Insured

The fire left the village business section with only one business block on the east side of Main Street. Damage to buildings across the street was set at $2,000. Paint peeled from the fronts and plate glass windows were crumbled by the heat.

Owners of the buildings said the losses were partly covered by insurance.

Causes of the fire had not been determined, but it was believed a furnace in the Winton and Kinney store may have become overheated.

Grocery Service Restored

Temporary quarters were established today by Winton and Kinney and Mr. Hatfield in order to supply residents with groceries. Mr. Koontz said the filling station will be rebuilt.

Meanwhile, residents were praising the action of Miss Edna Ray, telephone operator, who remained at the switchboard and summoned every home owner who had a telephone to help fight the flames. Her efforts ceased only when the wire leading into the building burned and disabled service.

A truck driver for the Trans-american Freight Line, whose name was not learned by residents, helped awaken the townspeople by sounding the horn of his truck when he learned the town has no fire alarm.

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