It was just forty years ago, on April 18, 1914, that a disastrous fire burned twenty-two cottages at Winona Lake. Although the loss was entirely to private owners, it was an indirect blow to both the newly-incorporated town of Winona Lake and the Winona Assembly.
Total loss was figured at around $40,000, a substantial amount of which was covered by insurance.
A number of people were raking their yards on that fateful Saturday in April. A sudden strong wind caused the flames from one bonfire to leap to a cottage next door to the Winona Hotel. The house was soon a mass of flames. A strong wind from the northwest caused the fire to move rapidly to other cottages.
The Winona Fire Department responded immediately and calls were sent out to other departments. Warsaw's fire equipment soon arrived on the scene. A special train brought the Fort Wayne department, and according to newspaper reports, it was of considerable help, although arriving late. Dynamite was used to blow up a couple of houses in the path of the fire.
This fire pointed up Winona's need for better fire protection. The town of Winona Lake was less than one year old at that time, having been incorporated on June 2, 1913. The president of the town board, George P. DeHoff, the clerk-treasurer, William G. Fluegel, and other town leaders immediately made plans for more adequate fire protection. A Howe fire engine, costing $2,750, was purchased in May, and a concrete house was erected for it the following October. The town was assured of adequate water pressure by the Winona Electric Light and Water Company.
Fortunately for the Winona Assembly the Winona Hotel was not burned, although it was in danger all through the fire. The loss of the hotel less than two months before the season opened would have been a serious blow to the Assembly.
The Winona Assembly was in bad financial condition at that time anyway; in fact, a group of creditors was soon to force her into bankruptcy proceedings.
Warsaw Times-Union Sat. Apr. 17, 1954