This Day in Dayton, 5 November
On Wednesday evening, November 5, 1987, an arson fire in Dayton was so spectacular it was picked up by the Associated Press. Someone apparently set fire to bales of hay in a ditch that had been dug by a General Telephone contractor to install a fiber optic cable. The hay was there because Halloween vandals had stolen the barricades originally set up. The fire in the hay burned into the gas line, causing fire to shoot up 30 feet between the Scott and Brehmer homes on Dayton Road in the first block off of Walnut Street. Wayne and Peg Scott saw the fire ignite and called the police. When the gas line ignited, they called again, saying the explosion shook the house. Next door neighbor Crystal Brehmer was quoted as saying she thought her grandson was hallucinating when he started yelling they needed to get out. Wayne Scott was quoted as saying it looked like an oil well blew up. The fire department kept the homes wet, and the fire didn’t spread. About 50 people were evacuated for two hours. Mulberry phone service and Indiana Gas service were disrupted for some until the afternoon. Town Marshal Rick Earhart’s letter to the editor a week later thanked everyone for teamwork at avoiding a tragedy: Tippecanoe County Sheriff Heath, Lafayette Police Chief Ron Milks, Sheffield Volunteer Fire Department and also departments from Clarks Hill, Stockwell, and Mulberry, with special thanks to Bob Bowman and Ron Miller. Tippecanoe County Ambulance Service, Mulberry Ambulance Service stood by in case anyone needed to be transported. Indiana Gas shut off the valves quickly to eliminate the gas supplying the fire.
A second fire was discovered about 1:15 a.m. in straw and trash stacked against a vacant building. A reward was offered for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible. (Journal and Courier November 5 and 11, 1987)