1946 Four Men Die in Lobdell-Emery Fire
Onaway Outlook Jan. 14, 1926



 FOUR MEN ARE BURNED TO DEATH AS DISASTEROUS FIRE RUINS BUILDING OF A. W. R. CO. Fire breaking out at about 8:30 a. m. this morning swept thu the main buildings of the
American Wood Rim Company�s Automobile Steering Wheel and Bicycle Rim manufacturing
plant and completely destroyed those departments before it could be brot under control. A full crew of men and women were at work when the blaze started and of the number,
four were trapped in the buildings and are believed to have been burned to death. The missing
men are Fred Van Pfoff, Lorenzo D. Smith, John Tate, Eugene Precour. Late this afternoon the bodies of three were discovered in the ruins. Stephen Heil, who at
first was reported among the missing was later found at his boarding place. The four missing men are well known and respected residents of the city and their sudden
call while at their daily post of duty has cast a shadow over the entire community. The sympathy
of all goes out of their bereaved families. Manager Edward Lobdell, Jr. and the Superintendents and foremen are at a lose to
explain how the missing men became caught in the blazing building as all made an effort to see
that every employee was sent from the departments as soon as the alarm was given and there was
time enough for all to have made their escape. Mr. Lobdell stated he believed the fire to have been caused from a spark of static
electricity which was caught up from a shaft and becoming drawn into the blowers of a sanding
machine caused the explosion in the blower system and the pipes breaking up released the fire in
several places in the room at once. The alarm was immediately answered by the city fire department which worked in
conjunction with the employees using the plant�s equipment in fighting the blaze. But the fire
driven by the strong south wind, which developed blizzard velocity during the morning spread
steadily north thru the wood working sections of the plant and defied all efforts to control it until
the concrete and steel walls of the foundry building furnished a check to its progress and enabled
the firemen to hold it there. The Saw Mill and lumber yards were continuously in danger of
being ignited from sparks and heat by a large crew of men kept the fire from gaining any
foothold there. A call for help to the City of Cheboygan brot a section of their Department with
additional hose but they failed to reach the city until the blaze had already been halted. The plant
and City officials appreciate the prompt spirit in which our neighboring city answered the call. The long battle against the fire completely exhausted the reserve water reservoirs and
necessitated the shutting off the city water for about four hours during the afternoon while the
pumps were again bringing up the supply in the reservoirs. The loss sustained by the A. W. R. Company in the fire is a heavy one but estimates of
the total are not available as we go to press. Mr. E. J. Lobdell, Sr., President of the Company has been in the east on a business trip
and was reached this afternoon with news of the fire. No statement of the plans of the Company
for replacing the destroyed departments will be available until he returns to Onaway, although
officers here felt it was very probably that the plant would be rebuilt in the near future. Onaway Outlook, January 14, 1926 pg. 1

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