Between twelve and one o’clock on the night of July 28, 1917, fire broke out in the W.A. Drawdy store room on Pennsylvania Avenue in St. Cloud, Florida. The fire swept down both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, affecting eighteen businesses before it was brought under control.
Townspeople assisted in removing items which could be saved but efforts to extinguish the flames were futile. Fire Chief Billy Milson worked with his fire fighters, stationed with buckets of water on roofs, which helped to prevent the spread of the fire to other parts of town. Fortunately there was no wind blowing or the entire city would have been endangered. Water service was still incomplete and limited to a few places in the business district. Members of the Kissimmee Fire Department and citizens of Kissimmee also assisted in fighting the fire.
Three men were taken into custody; an investigation, numerous hearings and a trial, which lasted two years finally ended in November 1919 with a verdict of not guilty.
Some businesses relocated to other buildings on adjoining streets but several began rebuilding immediately, using brick or concrete to ensure against possible loses in the future.
Sources: “St. Cloud Tribune”, August 4, 1917; December 5, 1918; November 6, 1919
Photos: Florida Memory online Photographic Collection