1970 downtown fire

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The 1970 downtown fire was a major fire that destroyed three stores on the 1800 block of 3rd Avenue North on the night of Thursday, December 17, 1970. The fire was in the same location as a 1911 fire that destroyed the Roberts & Sons Printing Plant and across the street from where Loveman's had gone up in flames in a massive 1934 inferno. Another major downtown fire occurred on 20th Street South exactly one year earlier.

The fire began about 5:30 PM on an upper floor on the right (East) side of the Graves Building, which was built in 1912 and had housed Lawrence Furniture since 1945. Lawrence's third floor annex had been expanded eastward into adjacent buildings, allowing the fire to quickly spread to the Thom McAn Shoe Store and Oxman's Wedding Shop below.

The Vaughn-Weil Department Store, also in the Graves Building, but behind a fire wall, was heavily damaged, primarily on the upper floors, where the fur vault was located. King Kredit Clothing and Epp's Jewelry, adjoining Vaughn-Weil to the west, received minor smoke damage.

The Birmingham Fire Department, headed by Chief John Swindle, fought the blaze for five hours. They were assisted in packing up by Explorer Post 520 and provided with coffee and sandwiches by the Salvation Army.

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