|Agency||Paris Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||31 to 35|
|Date of Birth||2/22/1900|
|Date of Death||1/22/1936|
|Cause of Death||Struck by object|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations , Hose operations , Ladder operations|
On January 22, 1936, James Dewey Elliott of the Paris Fire Department died in the line of duty while fighting a fire at the A.G. Witt Seed Co. Building in Paris, Illinois. Located on East Wood Street, the Witt Building housed the seed company, the Forest Honeywell Garage, and seven residential apartments.
Firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after the fire was reported around 9 P.M. Believing there were residents trapped in the second floor apartments, which were actually empty, the firefighters adopted an aggressive strategy for entering the building and extinguishing the blaze. Elliott, Chief Carrol Sizemore, and Firefighter Albert Malone were operating in the one-story garage when the structure began to weaken. Elliott was at the roof level, operating a hose while perched on a ladder that the firefighters had placed through a ceiling sky light, when Sizemore, who was holding the ladder with Malone, realized that the structure was giving way. Sizemore called for Elliott to descend the ladder, but the roof and one wall of the garage collapsed before the three firefighters could retreat.
Elliott fell from the ladder and was crushed by a ten-inch thick wooden beam, while Sizemore and Malone were also trapped by debris. As smoke poured into the ruined garage, the remaining uninjured firefighters were joined by civilian bystanders in their efforts to free the three trapped firefighters. Sizemore and Malone were quickly pulled from the rubble and taken to the hospital, but rescuers had to cut through the beam that Elliott was pinned under. He was eventually freed and transported to the hospital where doctors pronounced him dead, believing that he had died instantly. Malone was hospitalized with a fractured skull and a broken arm, while Sizemore was treated for serious head lacerations. Two civilians, Dan Wright and Paul Shanks, were also hospitalized, having been overcome with smoke while helping to rescue the trapped firefighters. Ralph Dunn of the Paris Police Department was also injured at the scene.
The Paris Fire Department had only seven members at the time, but the four uninjured firefighters kept working throughout the night with the assistance of police officers and civilian volunteers. Despite temperatures that reached eighteen degrees below zero, causing hoses to freeze to the fire hydrants and pavement, the fire was successfully extinguished and did not spread to any other structures.
Elliott, who had been a firefighter for one year, was survived by his wife, Helen, and his seven-year old daughter, Betty. A veteran of World War I, Elliott was buried on January 24, 1936, with military rites performed by members of the local American Legion (Post 211).
“Fireman killed, five hurt in blaze,” Paris Daily Beacon-News, January 23, 1936.
“Final tribute is paid today to fireman,” Paris Daily Beacon-News, January 24, 1936.