Telegraph Herald
Monday March 21, 1938


Over-exertion Is Fatal To Hubacher; Fires Numerous Sunday

One fireman died of what was believed to have been over-exertion and another was overcome by smoke as the fire department rushed about the city extinguishing grass fires, most of which, according to department reports, were carelessly started.

The fireman who died was Elmer "Duke" Hubacher, 42, of 2169 Elm Street, a pipeman for Engine Company No. 1. He had been overcome by smoke and weariness while helping to beat out a blaze on the hillside along Kaufmann Avenue, but after a short rest had returned to aid his company.

O'Connor Overcome
James O'Connor of Company 6, 1906 White Street, also suffered ill effects because of smoke and exertion, but recovered shortly afterwards.

Cause of Hubacher's death, however, had not been definitely determined Monday. Dr. C. C. Coady, Dubuque County coroner, said he believed that smoke fumes were responsible, but was also investigating the possibility that Hubacher was the victim of a heart attack. Results of an autopsy will probably be announced Tuesday.

"Hubacher was in the front line when he died," Fire Chief William W. Ryan said Monday, "and he was in the front line at every fire to which his company was called. His service was always outstanding and efficient. Around the station or at a fire, he could always be counted upon for complete cooperation."

"This is a little to great a price to pay for carelessness," Chief Ryan added. "Besides, with the fire engines scattered throughout the city, there is the hazard of a large fire breaking out of control before equipment can be summoned."

Several Acres Burned
The fire had spread through brush and thick grass over an area of several acres, and four members of the company had spread out in order to beat out the blaze.

Hubacher, wearied by the exertion, retired fir a time, then again started work. Complaining of dizziness, he was finally taken to a car, and rushed to a doctor. He died before an examination could be made.

Boys Blamed
Firemen believed that the blaze had been set by boys. It started near the Water Level and spread over the hill to Abbott Street.

Hubacher had been working for about a half an hour before his condition forced him to retire. Assisted by Company 4 which was called by families along Abbott Street, firemen finally extinguished the blaze after battling more than two hours.

13 Fires Sunday
Records indicated that 13 calls to extinguish grass fires were answered from 10:44 o'clock Sunday morning to 7:24 in the evening.

"At one time there was hardly an engine available throughout the city," Chief Ryan continued. "Furthermore, several of these grass fires almost broke out of control of the fire department, So many of them are away from hydrants, and must be beaten out with brooms, which often takes considerable time."

Every Spring for several weekends the fire department is flooded with grass fire alarms. The record, according to recollections of the chief, is 221 for one afternoon several years ago.

He said that people start burning off old grass without having means to control the blaze. Especially, he blames boys carelessly playing with matches.

"I make an appeal," he said, "that everyone, seeing boys starting fire, will immediately call police in order to apprehend the youngsters. This death Sunday makes it necessary that something be done.

"Also, many persons starting rubbish and grass fires without regard for their neighbors' property. Dry weather at the present complicates the hazard."

Hubacher, whose hobby was cooking the meals for the shift of which he was a member, had served as vice-president of the Iowa State Fire Fighter's Association for five years. He declined re-election last year. He was widely known as a sports enthusiast, and he followed sports, basketball and football, not only locally, but nationally, for many years.

Funeral Wednesday
Hubacher had been a member of the fire department since May 24, 1922, serving as a ladderman and recently as a pipeman. He had lived in Dubuque nearly all his life.

Funeral services will be held from the Didesch Funeral Home at 2:30 o'clock Wednesday afternoon, with Rev. W. P. Sandrock, pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church officiating.

Burial will be at Mount Calvary Cemetery. Survivors include his wife, Viola (Baumhover) Hubacher; two daughters, Dorothy and Yvonne; his parents, Mr. And Mrs. Roy Rapp of East Dubuque; and several aunts and uncles.

He was born in East Dubuque on March 2, 1896, and was a member of St. John's Church. He was also affiliated with the Police and Firemen's Insurance Association.