ABANDONED LUMBER MILL RAZED BY HOT PITTSBURGH FIRE
Structure Fully Involved by Fire Upon Arrival of Firemen
A SPECTACULAR quick burning daylight fire of almost Vesuvian proportions completely destroyed the abandoned sixty-six year old three-story brick planing mill and warehouse of the Diebold Lumber and Manufacturing Company, located on Wabash Avenue at Plank Street in the West End section of Pittsburgh, Pa., on Thursday, September 25th, and threatened to destroy a number of dwelling houses across the street before it was brought under control by twelve fire companies called on four alarms which were sounded in quick succession.
When Engines 10, 39, 19 and Truck 39 answering the first alarm arrived on the scene in command of Battalion Chief William R. Lynch of the Fourth Battalion, the entire building was involved with the flames already through the roof, so quickly did the fire spread. Chief Lynch lost no time in sending for additional help.
Apparently started by sparks from an acetylene torch being used by workmen to dismantle wood working machinery on the first floor of the old structure, the fire at its height shot hundreds of feet into the air, while a strong wind showered the entire neighborhood with sparks and burning embers and carried heavy clouds of dense black smoke into the heavens which were visible for miles in every direction.
Scores of persons were forced to flee as their homes began to smoke and blister from the intense heat. Fire Chief Phelan, with his rubber fire coat smoking from the intense heat, and a couple of his men directed a stream on the smoking dwellings and after a hard fight succeeded in saving them from any extensive damage.
Shortly after the fire started, telephone and light services were disrupted when falling walls crashed to the street, tearing down and cutting through utility wires.
Low water pressure in the fire zone became so bad before complete control of the fire was established that firemen were forced to resort to the rural volunteer fire-fighting procedure of pumping from the nearest stream, which happened to be the sluggish Saw Mill Run which runs in the rear of the burned building. Engine No. 60, a 750 gallon American La France pumper was placed on a bridge crossing the stream, and with two ten-foot suctions coupled together, succeeded in getting only one poor stream.
During the progress of the fire. Chief Phelan had to dispatch a Fire Company to the top of Coal Hill to control several small brush fires started by burning embers and sparks carried by the strong wind.
A force of sixty-three firemen answered the four alarms, with one 1250-gallon, three 1000-gallon and six 750-gallon pumpers, one turrett wagon and one city service truck, with Chief of Department, Nicholas A. Phelan, and Deputy Chief. Charles J. McDermott, answering the second alarms.
Eleven pumper streams and two booster tank streams were used in extinguishing the fire, with 6,950 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, 250 feet of 1-inch lead line hose and 200-feet of booster line hose in service.
The Diebold Lumber and Manufacturing Company, was in the process of moving to a now location. Only about 30,000 board feet of lumber, valued at $3,000 and about $1,800 worth of machinery remained on the premises when the fire broke out.
The duration of the fire was 8-hours and 47-minutes. A detail of firemen were on duty at the ruins for two days following the fire to guard against any flare-up of the smouldering ruins.
Photo by Hill Herries