Business Block Fire at Indianapolis

Business Block Fire at Indianapolis

Fire, believed to have been caused by defective wiring in the garret of the Commercial block, Kentucky avenue and Washington street. Indianapolis, Ind., caused a loss to many business firms, estimated in the aggregate at approximately $300,000. Five persons were trapped by the flames and were carried to safety by firemen and volunteers. The wearing off of the insulation on high voltage wires strung through the garret to feed a big electric sign on top of the block was the probable cause. The loss was due largely to water.

The water poured into the building while lighting the fire in the garret and second and third floors, swept through the floors of the building and caused a great part of the loss. The fire did comparatively small damage, although it gutted the garret and part of the fourth floor. A stairway and a skylight assisted materially in the rapid progress of the flames. The stairway led into the garret from the top floor of the building and the skylight, which was found open by firemen, was directly above it. Inside the draft area the fire resembled a roaring furnace when firemen reached it Acting Chief Loucks was in command at the fire until it was controlled. He then turned command over to Acting Assistant Chief Hoyle, who finished the work. The building 70 x 190 was constructed of brick sixty years ago, and is four stories high, with brick partitions, the first floor being occupied by retail stores and the second by offices. The third and fourth floors were rented to a number of people for living rooms and there were many people in the building when the fire broke out, The third and fourth floors also contained small repair shops. The United States marine corps has several rooms on the third floor.

The fire started at 8 p. m. and burned ten hours.

Firemen were able to run a line of hose into the basement in the rear of the store, and drove the fire toward the front part of the basement. Considerable time was lost in trying to get lines into the basement from the Washington street side. It was several minutes before the wire grating could be broken through. Then the dense smoke drove the firemen away from the building. The basement was filled with a large stock of women’s and children’s clothing. The fire started near the elevator shaft in the rear part of the basement. By the time the firemen had run lines of hose to the building, the fire had gained considerable headway. The driving snow, slush under foot, and strangling smoke that settled down in the street drove back the spectators. The water tower, playing on the front of the building, drove most of the loosened masonry back into the fire and prevented injury to the firemen. Ex-Chief Coots remarked several months before that he re garded the block as the worst fire trap in the city: “Every time an alarm is sounded from that section,” said Coots, “I am alway afraid that the block is on fire again.” During the last twenty years nearly a dozen fires have been discovered in the building. The owner of the store presented all the firemen without gloves with a new pair, taken from the stock they saved.

A direct pumping water system of 110 pounds pressure, eight engines and one tower with water, and eighteen streams through 10, 000 feet of hose with 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch nozzles, was in service at one time. Three sections o_____ hose burst during the fire. Hose wagon turret nozzles were also used. Twelve 2 1/2 inch hydrants on a 20 inch water main were in service.

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