ABANDONED PAPER BOX PLANT RAZED BY FIVE-ALARM FIRE
First Time That Five-Alarm Response Was Used Since Adoption of New Running Card Year Ago—Delayed Call Gives Blaze Headway
A SPECTACULAR quick burning night fire which started from some unknown cause in an old abandoned box factory in a Pittsburgh, Pa., manufacturing and warehouse center, swept through the entire building and gave the firemen a hard fight before it was brought under control.
Evidently the fire had been burning for some time and bad gained great headway, due to delayed alarm. It was first discovered by a city watchman on duty in the Bureau of City Water office and storage yards on Liberty Avenue directly opposite the burning building. He stated an explosion had preceded the flames which were then raging on the second floor of the building.
Five alarms were sent out in quick succession, calling fifteen engine companies and three truck companies with a uniformed fire fighting force of 116 men and twenty-one pieces of motor apparatus in command of Chief Richard Lee Smith.
When Engine and Truck Companies No. 25, located at Penn Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street arrived on the scene A “still alarm” was transmitted through the central office at 5:56 P. M. by the watchman who used the telephone to call the Fire Department instead of running to the fire alarm box about two hundred feet distant. When Engine and Truck Companies No. 25 arrived the flames were roaring through a large section of the building and going out of the roof. The fire was practically a three-alarm blaze before the box was pulled.
Employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company on duty in the railroad yard in the rear of the burning building informed the firemen that they had watched the fire burning for at least on hour, and as they looked from a point more or less obstructed by a large number of locomotives, they thought that the fire department was already fighting the fire from Liberty Avenue.
Seeing the great extent of the fire when he arrived on the scene, the Captain of Engine Company No. 25 had one of his men pull the street box. This was answered by Engine Companies No. 7 and 2 in command of Battalion Chief Herman J. Weihrauch of the Third Battalion, Engine Company No. 25 and Truck Company No. 25.
The first alarm from the street box which rvas sent out at 6:00 p. m. was quicklv followed by the second at 6:05 p. m., the third at 6:10 p. m., and then by the three-twos, (the fourth and fifth alarms combined), at 6:13 p. m.
The second alarm was answered bv Engine Companies No. 6, 32 and 33 and Truck Company No. 3, Deputy Chief Frank G. Jones and Chief of Department Richard L. Smith.
The third alarm was answered by Engine Companies No. 3, 14 and 18 in command of Battalion Chief Michael F. Shanahan of the Sixth Battalion, while the fourth and fifth alarms were answered by Engine Companies No. 48, 28, 42, 30 and 26 and Truck’Co. No. 9 in command of Battalion Chief John H. Frazier of the Fourth Battalion.
Quick and efficient work on the part of the firemen under the leadership of Chief Richard L. Smith and Deputy Chief Frank G. Jones finally succeeded in getting the fire under control after a hard fight for over two hours.
Eighteen powerful pumper streams as well as two large size turrett streams from the turrett wagons of Engine Companies No. 2 and 25, each supplied by three lines and two hydrant streams were used on the fire. The pumper and turret streams were supplied by one high pressure gasoline pumper, six 1000-gallon pumpers and eight 750-gallon pumpers, all of the American-La France type.
The burned factory was an old style three-story wood and joisted brick structure. It took in most of the block between Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Streets, fronting about 240 feet on Libertv Avenue and extending back a distance of 175 feet to Sassafras Street, a twenty-foot thoroughfare, which separated the building from the large railroad yards of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The building was almost entirely of open construction, with wooden timbers and heavy factory type wooden floors. It made good fuel for the flames as they spread rapidly through the entire structure and out through the roof. The glare of the flames brought hundreds of persons to the scene and made a wonderful sight for persons who witnessed the fire from the hills.
Wired glass windows in metal sashes on the rear and the eastern end of the building, while aiding to keep the fire confined within the building, were more or less of a hinderance to the firemen in getting their streams directed into the burning building.
A large driveway in the center of the building leading from Liberty Avenue to the rear of the structure, acted like a large flue as the draft swept through the driveway, turning this part of the building into a raging furnace. Within a short time the floors and the roof in the center of the building collapsed and crashed through to the first floor.
The building was equipped with automatic sprinklers, supplied by a 15,000-gallon tank, which failed to operate to their fullest capacity owing to some of the main feed lines from the tank being shut off at the time the building was abandoned.
The building was abandoned about two months before the fire by the Kress Company, the company moving into a modern new factory building of fireproof construction.
This is the first five-alarm fire that has taken place in the city since the installation of the new six-alarm assignment card about one year ago. All the assignments and transfers on the new card worked out to perfection. Previous to the adoption of the new six-alarni card, after receipt of the fourth alarm on the old card, any additional help had to be called for by telephone from the vicinity of the fire, which at times was the cause of more or less delay.