Thirty-Five Fire Companies Prevent Extension To Adjacent Property in Brief But Tough Battle

A Staff Report

FIRE in an old abandoned grain elevator, located at 24th Street and Archer Avenue. Chicago, created heat so intense that firemen were unable to approach closer than within half a block of it. The wooden structure, nearly a city block long and seven stories high, said to be the oldest grain elevator in Chicago, burned like a torch despite the efforts of thirty-five of the city’s fire companies summoned on a five-eleven alarm and two special calls, as well as the fireboat Fred Busse.

At one time, the Busse fought her way within fifty feet of the building but was forced to withdraw when the northwest corner of the huge structure collapsed and the remainder of the wall sagged alarmingly and threatened to crash into the river.

Many old time Chicago firemen who have battled elevator blazes affirm that the heat generated by this fire far exceeded that of any of its predecessors.. The flames, shooting several hundred feet into the air, cast a glow on the sky visible as far north as Waukegan, thirty miles away. A telephone pole on Wallace Street south of Archer Avenue, a block away, caught fire from the radiated heat. Window panes in the nearby buildings were too hot to touch. Firemen, unable to bring heavy streams to bear upon the flaming structure, devoted most of their efforts to protecting exposures.

Because of the intense heat and clouds of sparks and flaming embers, firemen were forced to concentrate on wetting down roofs of nearby factories, as well as spraying their own trucks and fourteen outdoor chemical tanks of a chemical corporation to keep the fire from spreading. Despite their efforts, however, tires broke out at the White Motor Company. 2401 Archer Avenue: the HansellElcock Iron Works, 485 West 23rd. Place and the Vierling Steel Works, 353 West 23rd place. In addition several light poles were ignited. All these fires were quickly extinguished.

Huge Bonfire Visible Thirty Miles Away One of Chicago’s hottest fires levels an abandoned elevator, while firemen fight on wide front to cover exposures.

Casualties Light

Despite the magnitude of the firefighting operations, and the handicaps under which the men labored, accidents were few. Captain William J. Marrhies. 52. acting chief of the 9th Battalion, suffered a hip fracture when he stepped into a hole. He was taken to Mercy hospital. A few other firemen suffered minor injuries but remained on the job.

Fireboat Streams Fruitless on Flaming Elevator Chicago’s fireboat Fred Busse with other units of 5-11 response were unable to reach roaring fire with the heaviest of streams.

Structure Was Being Wrecked

The ancient elevator had been abandoned. It was formerly owned by the National Grain Company, and was purchased five months ago by John F. Cuneo, and was in process of being wrecked by the American Wrecking Company to make room for a new warehouse, when the fire occurred. Part of the roof had been removed. Cuneo estimates his loss at “probably less than $125,000.”

The fire was discovered about 8:15 P. M. by a guard at the adjoining Cuneo printing plant. He turned in an alarm and before the first fire companies reached the scene it is reported flames had enveloped the upper part of the structure.

The glare in the sky, the movement of responding and locating fire companies and the reported broadcasts of news of the fire brought out a crowd of spectators and resulted in a flood of telephone calls to fire and police headquarters and the press. Fifteen squads of police were dispatched to the fire with 100 patrolmen on foot from nearby police districts. They struggled to keep the milling crowds several blocks away while the fire was at its height.

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