Business Section of Port Chester in Ashes
Port Chester, a suburban town of New York, in W estchester county, suffered a severe fire loss on August 26, when flames destroyed the John Ryan granary and feed mills, the pattern storehouse of Abendroth Bros.’ foundry, Janies Reynolds Empire garage, the plumbing shop of George W. Siltz, and damaged other buildings in the block bounded by North Main street and Mill street, the Byram river and the New Haven Railroad tracks. It was the largest conflagration in Port Chester since the Burns fire, on July 22, 1908. The total estimated damage is $160,000, part of which is covered by insurance. The fire started in a pile of wood in the rear of a saloon and spread rapidly to other buildings. The flames were discovered by a boy at about 3:30 a. m., who notified a policeman, and the alarm was turned in. Reliance auto chemical received a “still,” and responded promptly. Five alarms followed, and the entire fire-fighting force ot Port Chester turned out, as did also the department of East Port Chester. Chief Charles E. Lounsbury took charge. The prompt response of the East Port Chester firemen had much to do with controlling the conflagration. Their steamer was set to work on Water street, near the corner of Mill, and a line of hose run across the bridge, while another line was run down Armonk street and across the river bed to the scene of the fire. Later, a third line was laid by the Volunteers, of Greenwich, across the river, and the stream applied to tne Ryan mill. The East Port Chester company’s hose supplemented that of the local department while they made haste to get more from the truck house, in case of an emergency. The firemen from across the Byram worked as willingly as though the fire had been on their side of the river. With amazing rapidity the flames ate through the large building in which thousands of dollars worth of stoves, heater, furnace and gas range patterns were stored, and in a brief space of time the place was afire from end to end. The building itself was dry, making good material for the flames to devour. Its contents, all of wood and as dry as the building itself, burned like the tinder that it was and even by the time the first stream of water was directed upon it, what a few minutes before had been a massive structure was now a seething furnace. With the pattern shop a seething furnace, and the firemen fighting it with but a feeble pressure on their hose lines, it was obvious that the granary had to go. At about 3:45 the first evidence that the Ryan mills were afire began to appear. The flames first burst through the windows on the west side of the building, directly under the elevator shaft, and rapidly ate their way to the roof of the building. The drafts in the elevator shaft fanned the flames and with the firemen unable to reach the seat of the new conflagration from the street, it was but an incredibly short time when that side of the building was in flames. Soon the flames burst from a front window in the peak of the building, and immediately the firemen hoisted the aerial truck, with a turret nozzle on the top of the ladder, and began to fight the flames from this quarter, the only place they could get at. The truck was raised with much difficulty, on account of the telephone wires crossing the street at this point, and a man had to be sent to the top of the ladder to cut them down. The ponderous truck was finally raised and a stream sent out towards the window from which the flames were now burst_____ng with fury. However, the pressure was so poor, that the stream barely reached to the building, and spattered down over the roof of the extension in which the office is located. The firemen then lowered their improvised water tower and moved it nearer the building, and again wires had to be cut. But this time there was better pressure on the water, and the aerial did excellent work in fighting the flames. The firemen were handicapped in fighting the blaze in the granary, owing to the construction of the building. Being a frame structure, covered with sheet t_____n, the water which the firemen threw on it from their lines did little or no good, while the flames had full sway on the inflammable interior of the building. Just before four o’clock the fire burst through the roof of the elevator tower, and at 4:10 o’clock the tower, carrying with it a portion of the roof of the main building, fell with a crash, sending sparks hundreds of feet in the air. and causing the now brilliantly lighted scene to become even lighter, as the flames, thus treed, burst into the air. This gave the local firemen and the Protection department of East Port Chester, who were fighting the fire from the cast side of the building and from the rear, an opportunity to get at the sent of the conflagration, and streams were at once poured into the opening caused by the failing of the roof. Too much praise cannot be given to the East Port Chester fire department and the boys of the Volunteer chemical, of Greenwich, Conn., who so readily responded to the call of the Port Chester fire department. Their work was very material to the checking of the flames, and perhaps averting the worst fire in the history of Port Chester. A record in the office of the Port Chester Waterworks Company disclosed the fact that at four o’clock, when the fire was raging, the pressure of water was 110 pounds. The apparent lack of pressure when the aerial truck was first tried on the Ryan mill, is attributed to the fact that there thirteen or more lines of hose in use in the comparatively small area, and, besides this, there were two steamers sucking the water. Nothing was wrong with the pressure, it was said at the office of the water company. Nothing but praise is heard for the fine work of Chief Lounsbury and his volunteers in the local department. With a less courageous lot of men fighting the flames, there is no telling where they would have stopped.
Chief Lounsbury writes: “On Sunday, August 25, at 3:25 a. m., the second most disastrous fire that Port Chester has known occurred in one of the business blocks situated on Main and Mill streets, and was not subdued until 9:00 a. m. The burned buildings and contents represented a loss of about $175,000 and included a large garage owned by James Reyonald & Co., the John Ryan elevator and feed mills, Abendroth Bros, pattern shop, Geo. Siltz plumbing shop and damaging several adjoining buildings. The burned area covered about 500 square feet, the buildings being all of frame construction. Abendroth Bros, lost about $75,000 worth of patterns, a great many of which will be impossible to replace. Fortunately, at this time of the year the grain elevators were not filled to their capacity and it was possible to save their several storehouses. The fire was discovered by Patrolman Ofsen, who immediately rang in a first alarm, and realizing the danger of a large conflagration, pulled the second alarm, bringing out the entire department, consisting of five hose companies, two steamers, two trucks, one auto chemical and police patrol. The fire started in the large pattern shop of Abendroth Bros., stove manufacturers. and spread with such rapidity that the entire building and several adjoining buildings seemed to burst into flames simultaneously. Ten minutes from the first alarm 13 streams of water were playing on the burning structure, three of which were run across the Byram River by East Port Chester and Greenwich fire companies, who did heroic work in saving the stables and adjoining structures of the Ryan Company. About this time a resident of East Port Chester telephoned to Greenwich for assistance, as the sparks were being carried across the river in such quantities that they feared a general conflagration on their side of the river. Greenwich responded by sending two auto chemicals. One of the worst features in connection with the fire was the fact that the outside of the elevator buildings, which were constructed of wood, was covered with heavy sheet metal, which handicapped the firemen and prevented the saving of that structure, but after the rear walls fell it was possible, by the aid of the water tower and a stream taken into the upper floors of the building by Mellor Hose Company No. 3, to save the front end of the building, including the offices. All but two of the autos stored in the Reyonalds garagg were saved, but the building, being soaked with oil and gasoline, made it impossible to save because of the rapid spread of the flames. Seven engine and eight hydrant streams were thrown, with 00 pounds hydrant pressure. The department is equipped as follows: One new Metropolitan steamer No. 2; one Metropolitan steamer No. 4; one 65-foot aerial trurk, La France; one Seagrave truck; one horse chemical; one Pope Hartford auto chemical, 75-gallon; two combination hose and chemical wagons and 6,000 feet of two and one-half inch fabric hose distributed between five hose companies. The equipment is all in first class condition and mostly new. One of the features of the department is the auto chemical, which has taken care of 75 per cent. of the small fires.”