|Agency||Bloomington Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Volunteer|
|Age Range||26 to 30|
|Date of Birth||2/10/1899|
|Date of Death||5/7/1928|
|Cause of Death||Struck by object|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations|
On May 7, 1928, Bloomington Fire Department firefighter Walfried Moline and Louis Payton died while in performance of their duties at the J. E. Will & Co. fire. On May 29, 1928, Bloomington Fire Department Firefighter Frank Payton died from his injuries sustained at the same incident.
A fire started at 9 pm on May 7 in the J. E. Will & Co. furniture store and quickly spread throughout the four story building. The Bloomington Fire Department kept the flames from spreading to other buildings in the commercial district. While firefighters were fighting the fire, a forty-foot wall buckled and fell onto the firefighters. In total, seven firefighters were caught underneath the debris. Five firefighters; Louis Browning, Ralph Laesch, Chas. Smith, Elmo Waters, and Frank Payton were initially pulled from the wreckage. Firefighter Walfried Moline and volunteer firefighter Louis Payton were still missing. Bloomington Fire Department had the help of the local Chicago and Alton railroad shops and members of the butchers union to first recover Moline. It was almost two days later that firefighters recovered Louis Payton.
Louis Payton was the son of firefighter Frank Payton and was often serving beside his father in fires to ensure his safety. Though Louis Payton wasn’t an employed firefighter, Bloomington made him an Honorary Firefighter after his death. Frank Payton had been pulled from the debris and taken to the hospital with a broken femur that eventually became infected. Frank Payton had served with the Bloomington Fire Department for 14 years.
Walfried Moline served with the Bloomington Fire Department for three and a half years.
“Two Men Believed Dead Under Ruins As Will Furniture Store Burns With 100,000 Loss,” The Pantagraph, May 8, 1928.
“Search for Body Held Up Till Walls Can Be Razed,” The Pantagraph, May 9, 1928.
“Inquest Into Fire Deaths Being Held this Afternoon,” The Pantagraph, May 10, 1928.
“Firemen made Ultimate Sacrifice in ’28 Fire,” The Pantagraph, September 22, 2007.
“Third Fatality of Fire,” The Pantagraph, May 31, 1928.
“Louis Payton’s Body Taken From Building,” The Pantagraph, May 10, 1928.