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This article appeared in the JD Tower Issue of the Bull Sheet, April 1992

A Hot Time at JD Tower

By Donald Breakiron

Here is an incident that took place in the fall of 1968 while I was on second-trick at JD. This was before the days of having a dumpster, and it was my self-appointed duty to dispose of the trash each day by burning it.

This was usually done near the foot of the tower stairs, but on this particular day I took the trash out onto the ballast between the tracks as it had been rather dry that month and there was a lot of tall grass around the usual burning area.

I burned the trash and watched it go out. At least I thought I saw it go out...

Later that evening a train came through. A few minutes later I saw a reflection on the tower window, and I ran over to look and saw that the fire had flared up and spread to the dry grass around the front steps and nearby signal box.

I couldn't locate the fire extinguisher (which was buried under an accumulation of newspapers), so I filled a bucket with water, and along with a mop and about 12 trips back up the steps to get more water, I proceeded to get the fire under control around the critical areas.

But in the ensuing struggle, some of the grass away from the signal box continued to burn and the fire was spreading eastward toward Riverdale.

After all those trips up and down the steps, I was somewhat winded, but I did manage to collect my breath enough to call the fire department to tell them help was needed.

I was later asked why I had waited so long to call the fire department. I explained that I was too busy fighting the fire to take the time to call them. Anyway, I had saved the signal box and its cables with little time to spare, and this I felt was most critical.

I should add, I suppose, that the tower's fire extinguisher was brought out of its hiding place.