State Office Building 300 South Walnut Lansing, Michigan


February S, 1951

—Photo courtesy Fire Marshal’s office, Michigan State Police

ONE OF THE LARGEST, most long drawnout and punishing salvage operations took place during and following the fire which involved the top floors of the Michigan State Office Building in Lansing, Mich., on February 8, 1951.

The eight-story building of fire resistive construction was built in the form of a “U” and occupied an entire city block, measuring approximately 580 feet from one end of the building to the other.

The fire was set by a disgruntled employee on the seventh floor, where state records and all types of materials were stored, from which point it communicated to the floor above, ultimately involving both floors. No fire got below these two floors, but in the protracted struggle to extinguish the fire, millions of gallons of water were thrown into the building during the 30 hours of extinguishing operations.

This water found its way down through the floors and stairways to the areas below, which were occupied by state departments containing irreplaceable records and a library of great value.

The limited number of covers carried by the Lansing Fire Department was soon depleted, and it was apparent that unless a vast supply of additional tarps’ were secured, the water damage would be tremendous.

To Arnold C. Renner, Chief, Fire Marshal Division, Michigan State Police, fell the task of protecting the costly contents of the huge structure.

In addition to making use of all the possible covers which were available on incoming apparatus, an appeal for all possible protection covers went out to the National Guard, local merchants and trucking and industrial concerns.

The National Guard alone was able to supply 400, and 176 additional covers were secured from other sources. All 576 covers were spread below the fire by some 36 recruit state troopers and about 12 other employees from the City of Lansing aided by firemen, when and where they could be spared from the arduous job of fighting the fire.

No water damage was done to the IBM machinery, typewriters, or adding machines as a result of this coverage, in spite of the large amounts of plaster and water that came down on the lower floors.

Following the fire, some contents, such as library books and other materials that were subject to run-off before coverage could be effected, were treated by experts and much of it reclaimed. The total damage of $1,900,000 would have been immeasurably greater but for this prompt and extensive operation.

An interesting detail of this case history was the fact that according to Marshal Renner, of the 576 covers used, all but two of them were returned to their rightful owners following the fire.

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