4-Alarm Fire Gives 13-Hour Battle
Raging flames, fanned by an intensely cold wind, swept through the SchulteUnited Store building, three and four stories of brick in the heart of the East Liberty business district, Pittsburgh, Pa., at an early hour recently. For a time the fire threatened to sweep through the entire block of store and office buildings bounded by Penn Avenue,, Kirkwood Street, and North Highland and Sheridan Avenues.
Before it was brought under control four alarms were sent, which brought 16 fire companies, with a manual force of 90 firemen and 17 pieces of fire apparatus.
Fire started from an unknown cause in the basement of the Schulte building. It was not discovered until after Engine Company No. 8 and Truck 8 had been sent on a “still alarm” to the Murphy Five and Ten Cent Store at 1:16 a. m.
The watchman in the Five and Ten Cent Store, located next door to the Schulte store, telephoned the call after he discovered smoke in the basement of the building while making his rounds.
The first alarm was quickly followed by the second at 1.33 a. m., the third at 1 :49 a. m. and the fourth at 1:51.
A special call, following the four alarms, at 2:53 a.m., brought Squad Company No. 1 to the scene from the downtown business district.
As the firemen turned their streams into the burning building. Penn Avenue, Kirkwood Street and other thoroughfares in the vicinity were soon flooded with water that froze almost at once in the sub zero temperature.
After a hard three-hour battle, under the direction of Chief Nicholas A. Phelan. the fire was under control. Flames had been confined almost entirely to the basement and the first floor of the Schulte building.
Fire was fought from the front and rear of the burning structure with fifteen powerful streams, which included a water tower and a turret stream from No. 8 Engine Company’s deluge combination water tower and turret wagon.
Nine firemen, including Battalion Chief David A. Wilson, were sent to the Mercy Hospital. One suffered from a broken ankle by falling from an ice coated ladder, and the others received eye burns from the stifling smoke and exposure.
The burned store building, of brick and stone construction, fronted 50 feet on Penn Avenue and extended through the block 125 feet to Kirkwood Street. It was practically two buildings in one; the section at 6015 Penn Avenue is four stories in height, while the section at 6017 is three stories, a brick party wall, with openings on all floors, runs through the building from Penn Avenue to Kirkwood Street.