#TBT From the NFPA Archives: 1933 McPherson, Kansas Disaster

Blog Post created by jrodowicz Employee on Jun 14, 2018

A disastrous fire occurred in McPherson, Kansas on the night of June 13, 1933, completely destroying a theatre, lumber yard and a mercantile building. The circumstances surrounding the fire and its development are of particular interest to volunteer fire departments and those in rural areas.


At 10:20pm on night of June 13, 1933, a taxi-driver noticed a fire had started in a commercial truck that was being stored in the local lumber yard. On the day of the fire, all but two members of the McPherson volunteer fire department were out of town attending a training.

There were no fire extinguishers in the vicinity of the fire to prevent the fire from spreading. While the fire station was located across the street from the lumber yard, the two remaining firefighters were unable to operate the pumper. Local people volunteered to help but did not have firefighting experience.

From NFPA’s Volunteer Firemen v.1, no.1, 1933:

“When it appeared the fire was out of control requests were made to the cities of Lindsborg, 14 miles distant, and Hutchinson, 34 miles distant. The former responded with a 750-gallon pumper and three volunteer firemen, and the latter city sent a company of four men and a 750-gallon pumper. Hose streams, six from pumpers and three direct from hydrants, were used on the fire.

Long before this outside help had arrived the fire had spread to near-by buildings an area of about 42,000 square feet was burned over.

Undoubtedly if more of the members of the local volunteer fire department had been in the city the fire would have been controlled before it gained much headway. The loss would have been unquestionably greater had it not been for the able assistance rendered by the Lindsborg and Hutchinson fire departments. Hydrants and hose threads in these cities were all standardized, so there was no delay in getting into service once they arrived.”

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.

We house all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.