On a quite Sunday, June 26, 1988, a catastrophe occurred in Perkasie. The Great Perkasie Fire was started by two 12 year old Perkasie boys. There was an estimated $ 9 million in damage from the fire. The boys were playing in the area of the coal bins behind Shelly's headquarters building; they were lighting small fires with matches which led to a huge fire. The blaze was ruled as arson and five charges were made against the two boys. The blaze leveled a block-and-a-half area of historic downtown Perkasie. High winds and intense heat contributed to making this fire the worst fire in Perkasie and Upper Bucks County history.

Veteran firefighter Jeffrey Schoeller turned in the alarm when he noticed smoke coming from the old shed when he crossed the railroad tracks. The structure was in full blaze by the time the fire trucks arrived. The fire soon spread across to the Moyer building and then 50 feet across the Street to Lesher's 5¢-10¢-$1 store.

 The shed at left is where the fire started. The Moyer building (Shelly's Headquarters) is located to the right.    Here is the train barn, shed, and Shelly's Headquarters fully engulfed in flames.
 View from Seventh Street of the train barn, shed, and Shelly's Headquarters. The Herstine building is at left.    View from West Market Street (near Eighth Street) of fire.

There were 275 firefighters from 50 companies from a three county area that fought the fire. Only 16 people, mostly firefighters were injured in the fire. Two pieces of fire-fighting equipment were lost by the Perkasie Fire Company - a snorkel and ladder truck (their most valuable piece of equipment) and a pumper truck.

 Snorkel and ladder truck on Seventh Street.    One of two destroyed vehicles in the fire.

A ball of flames jumped across Seventh Street and took out the apparatus in minutes. Greg Nyce and Clyde Snyder were suspended two stories above Seventh Street in an aerial truck bucket when the flames from Shelly and Sons corporate headquarters surrounded them. Firefighters below had to abandon the truck and the two decided to risk hitting the electrical lines to move the bucket to the building of the 14-21 N. Seventh Street building. They jumped through the roof hatch to safety at Miss Cindy's School of Dance.

 The fire continued out of control and moved to the Herstine building, Perkasie Improvement Building , and the Moyer-Kantner Funeral Home. Many business and home owners on Market Street watered down their roofs fearing the fire would continue down the street; but other than heat damage, the fire went no further than the Kantner property.


View of fire on Market Street from Sixth Street.

 The fire police and a coalition from the National Guard was used to keep the growing crowds behind yellow safety lines.  
   Not only was the blaze covered by the Philadelphia media, but reports on CNN were seen throughout the country. Live coverage is seen at left by Channel 10 of the fire site the day after the fire.

 Several million gallons of water were used to battle the fire. Tanker brigades continuously provided water as miles of hoses stretched through the downtown Perkasie area.  
   Temporary canvas pools were set up with trucks running continuously from the East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek with refills.
 A dozen businesses were destroyed and 36 people were left homeless. Many individuals lived in apartments above Leshers (5 units), the American House Hotel (12 apartments) and the Herstine building(5 units).  
 View of Herstine Building on Seventh Street after the fire.  The people living in these locations lost virtually everything they owned.
All black and white photos on this page were made available by Dave Moyer: copyright 1988.

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