BOYS’ SCHOOL IN NEWTON, MASS., RAZED WHEN WATER SUPPLY FAILS
Firemen Also Hampered by Cold Weather and Strong Wind — Aid Rushed From Nearby Towns — Coffee Served by Salvation Army
FIRE which originated in a defective chimney, destroyed the 3-story brick mansion occupied by the Langer School for Boys in the Auburndale section of Newton, Mass., on the night of December 8. A delayed alarm, a broken hydrant, and bitterly cold weather hampered the efforts of the firemen. The building was situated on a hill and set back a considerable distance from the street.
At 10:39 p.m. a telephone call was received from a teacher who lived in the school with four boys, stating that he had smelled smoke for some time and he thought that there was a small fire in back of the fireplace on the second floor. Engine Companies 5 and 2 and Ladder Company 1 were dispatched to the scene and as Engine 5 left quarters, the members of the company could see the reflection of flames which were even then going through the roof of the school.
Connection was made to a post hydrant on a 6-inch main and a line was run to the top floor. The fire was then going through the roof; there was fire in the basement; in the partitions on the first and second floor and the entire attic was involved. When the call was given to start the water it was found that no water came from the hydrant. Engine 2 had stretched a line from the same hydrant, but there was found to be only 18 pounds pressure due to a broken valve in the hydrant. The water department has charge of the hydrants in Newton.
Three lines were then run from another hydrant 2,000 feet distant on a 6-inch main with 150 pounds pressure. Meanwhile a bell alarm had been sounded at 10:49 and this was followed by a second alarm at 11:01. The flames raged fiercely and a portion of the roof collapsed before all the companies got into action. Engines 2, 1, and 5 drafted water from the Charles River. The total amount of hose laid by the Newton companies was 8,000 feet of which 600 feet was 3-inch and the rest was 2 1/2-inch cotton rubber lined. The ladders raised were one 35-foot extension ladder, two 30-foot wall ladders, one 25-foot extension ladder, and two 25-foot wall ladders. An engine from Walthom laid 1,200 feet of hose. The Newton Fire Department lighting truck rendered good service, using four 200-watt flood lights and one 500-watt flood light. An Eastman deluge set was utilized to advantage.
There were 75 officers and men at the fire under direction of Chief Clarence R. Randlett. Other chiefs at the fire were Chief George L. Johnson, of Waltham; Chief William H. Hill, of Belmont: Chief T. Robert Quinlan, of Needham; and Chiel Slaman, of Wellesley.
The following apparatus was in service: From Newton, one 750-gallon Maxim motor pumper, two 750-gallon American-LaFrance motor pumpers, two 600-gallon Maxim pumpers, two Maxim city service ladder trucks and one Kohler lighting plant on a Ford chassis, and one 750-gallon American-LaFrance motor pumping engine from Waltham.
The “all out” signal was not sounded until 7:50 a.m.
The 6-inch water main connected a half mile away with a 12-inch main and ran out to a dead end. There was one private hydrant in the yard on a 4-inch main. Apparatus from Wellesley, Needham, and Watertown “covered in” at the vacant Newton fire houses during the progress of the fire.
The school building was built in 1881 and was formerly the estate of Royal M. Pulsifer. later being known as the Castle Inn. It was situated 1,000 feet from the nearest street hydrant. The loss was estimated at $40,000. The building contained 21 rooms. Firemen suffered severely from the cold and were served hot coffee by the Salvation Army and town folk.
Four students and three instructors succeeded in carrying out a valuable collection of Indian and Mexican rugs and antiques and some personal belongings before they were driven from the building by the fast spreading flames. A stiff northwesterly wind was blowing at the time.