So intent were the white rioters on destroying Greenwood that they stopped firefighters from getting to the blazes.
Firefighters testifying in an insurance case several years later said they were threatened and even shot at when they arrived on the scene of the earliest fires. Later, they received orders from Fire Chief R.C. Alder not to respond to alarms from the Black district because of the danger.
That order remained in effect until the fires were out of control.
“It would mean a fireman’s life to turn a stream of water on one of those (N)egro buildings,” Alder said. “They shot at us all morning when we were trying to do something but none of my men were hit. There is not a chance in the world to get through that mob.”
Unexplained was why no police or National Guardsmen were dispatched to protect the firefighters and perhaps dispel the mob.