30 COMPANIES FIGHT FIRE IN STATE ARMORY, BUFFALO
Field Artillery Armory Reported to be Largest in Country — Fire Alarms Turned in and Nearby Departments Were Held Ready
THE serious dangers of frame construction and shingle roofs were brought out in a fire that destroyed the 106th Field Artillery Armory at Buffalo, N. Y., and caused embers to fall on many houses. The building was opened in January, 1907, and contained 93,000 square feet of floor space. It is reported that the armory was one of the largest in the country. The structure was of the usual construction for this type edifice. All the sides of the building were designed to contain company quarters, offices and so forth.
Although several investigations were started following the blaze, it is still considered to be of undertertnined origin. When the fire was discovered, two Legion drill teams were on the large drill floor. A member of the team who was also a city firemen for five years noticed smoke curling up through the drill floor. He rushed out, turned in an alarm, and then ran back to fight the flames with a hose reel. The first alarm was turned in at 9:50 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6.
When the first companies arrived the entire central part of the basement was involved. The first alarm brought four pumpers, two trucks and one squad company. The second alarm brought the same response. Four pumpers and one truck company answered the third alarm, and the fourth alarm brought a similar number of units. Special calls were sent for three pumpers and three truck companies. This left only seventeen pieces of apparatus as a reserve to protect the balance of the city. Departments of suburban towns were ordered to stand by for possible service.
The building was constructed of stone, steel and wood and occupied one city block. It had a standpipe with city water connections.
The companies found a sufficient number of hydrants served by 6 to 36-inch mains from which to obtain a water supply. Pressure at the hydrants ranged from thirty to fifty pounds. On the hose lines, 1 1/4-inch tips were used. Deluge sets and cellar pipes were brought into play.
Smoke helmets and resuscitation equipment were of immense value. Fifty firemen were overcome by smoke and it was necessary to send calls to headquarters for additional oxygen tanks.
In describing the fire, W. R. Castimore, Deputy Commissioner of Fire, writes:
“One’s attention is again called to the danger of indiscriminate frame construction with wood shingled roofs. Had a strong wind been blowing instead of a mere breeze, Buffalo would probably have had a major conflagration. As it was, a church and several homes were badly damaged when ignited by flying embers in spite of the fact that the whole block immediately north of the armory is occupied by the Prospect Reservoir, an auxiliary of the city water system.”
George W. Hedden, Commissioner of Fire, was in charge of the fire companies. It was not until 3 a m. that some of the units were ordered back to quarters. Rain at 5:15 a.m., extinguished the remains of the fire.
Only outside walls remained standing. The heat was so intense that trucks and tractors were twisted by the heat. Continual streams of water saved the powder and ammunition magazine of the armory. A storeroom containing gasoline and turpentine was not damaged.
According to early reports the fire caused damage estimated at $7,000,000—$3,000,000 loss on the building and a $4,000,000 loss on the contents.