Business Block Fire at Akron, O.
Fire discovered in the furnace room of the W. L. Douglas shoe store, 12 South Main street, Akron, O., at 11.45 p. m., November 26, swept through the big Woods Block, rapidly reducing the three-story, brick veneered structure to ruins, gutting stores and destroying offices and causing a total damage estimated at more than $85,000. Within a half hour after the alarm of fire was sounded, the flames had spread through the budding and were bursting through the roof, leaping hundreds of feet in the air and menacing structures on all sides. The building was a tire trap, built 50 years ago, and has been rebuilt several times. The entire downtown business district was threatened by the remarkable headway made by the flames. Eleven streams of water were turned onto the burning building and surrounding structures.
The building was three stories high. The second and third stories were wholly used for small offices, and the street floor by several stores. It had one brick partition wall, but no fire equipment. The gas spread to all parts of the building. Had it been shut off when the fire started, the whole loss incurred would have been less by thousands. Long ago Chief John F. Mertz urged the city council to order exterior gas shut-offs, but they have neglected to legislate according to his advice. To council and to them alone can the blame for the size of the fire be directed, according to local newspapers.
When the flames were at their height the scene witnessed has never been surpassed in Akron. Chief Mertz had not been on the scene but two minutes when he realized the impending danger from the bursted gas pipes and called out every piece of apparatus and 60 firemen. Without the newly purchased motor apparatus the department would have been unable to cope with the rapidly rising flames, and undoubtedly the whole business district would have been consumed. The cost of the new apparatus was more than saved at this fire. The fire started in the basement, and even before the alarm was turned in, rose to great heights. When the department arrived, the intense heat in the basement had melted the gas pipes and vast columns of highly combustible natural gas poured from the fissures in the pipes and ignited. This added volume to the flames. The burning gas, rising high on all sides, set fire to the wooden interior of the building. There was one steam fire engine, five motor pumping engines, two aerial and one common truck and seven hose wagons in service. There were six engine streams and five plug streams, 7,000 feet of hose with 1 ⅛ and 2-inch nozzles in use. Two three-lengths of hose burst. Two deluge sets were also used. The water supply was furnished by direct pumping through 8 and 10-inch mains, giving a pressure of 85 pounds. Eight one-way and six four-way hydranis were used. The loss on the building was $55,000, and on contents $50,000. The total value of property was $225,000.