LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – One hundred years ago, in 1914, a Lafayette firefighter became the first to give his life in the line of duty.
The Lafayette Fire Department held a ceremony to remember the life and death of John William Mitchell. Capt. Mitchell joined Hose Company No. 4 located on Wabash Avenue in 1908.
On April 10, 1914 his crew was called to the Dryfus Theater in downtown Lafayette to put out a fire. Mitchell was standing underneath the stone theater marquee when it collapsed onto him. He was rushed to a hospital, but later died.
Lafayette Deputy Fire Chief Steve Butram said knowing how a building can collapse during a fire saves lives.
“We really pay attention to it, as firefighters today, and are very vigilant about looking at the buildings. Going out there and looking at them as they are being built. Building construction is a big part our job now. To watch and observe so that we understand, so we don’t have tragic consequences,” Butram said.
Mitchell was born and raised on Wabash Avenue in Lafayette. His grandson Robert Mitchell was the Lafayette Fire Chief from 1988 to 1991.
The Dryfus Theater was located on the corner of Columbia and Sixth Street in downtown Lafayette.