The TOPPS Discount Department Store burned down on Nov. 29, 1961.

Firefighters were hampered by a strong west wind that made the freezing temperatures even worse. The nearest hydrant was more than 500 feet away on Ridge Road, too.

"The persistent sound of falling glass along the entire front of the building blended with exploding noises inside to heighten the eerie spectacle," Times Staff Writer Tom Knightly wrote.

Store employees tried to fight the blaze with fire extinguishers, then fled without their coats when their efforts couldn't control the flames. Some employees formed a human chain to keep cars and onlooking from coming too close to the inferno, Knightly wrote.

Firefighters from other nearby towns helped fight the large blaze.