CIGARETTE CAUSES $2,000,000 LOSS AT ANNUAL AUTO SHOW
Four Tents Housed 326 New Model Automobiles and an Airplane Exhibit—Fire Burned Through Canvass Tops in Twenty Minutes
A WOMAN did it. Fire officials are convinced that a smoker, believed a woman, is responsible for the fire that destroyed the four large tents that housed the sixteenth annual automobile show in Los Angeles. The fire swept through the canvas like a prairie fire. In a few moments it was impossible to save any of the motor exhibits.
The show included a small airplane exhibit. The person blamed for the fire was standing beside a monoplane that had a cabin enclosure made of some highly flammable composition. When the match was struck the enclosure ignited and the force of the puff blew the flames to the canvas top. This happened at 4:15 p. m., at a time in the late afternoon when there were few spectators in the tents.
Two firemen were within a few feet of the airplane exhibit. One ran through the tent ordering every one out. The other played an extinguisher on the blaze which had burned a hole in the canvas top about three feet in breadth. The small blaze was being brought under control. Just at that time some one, in the excitement, opened one side of the tent. A powerful draft was created. The flame was fanned into a good blaze which swept like a prairie fire through the canvas. Fire leaped to the other three tents.
The four military bands, true to tradition, played while the visitors rushed to safety. But even the musicians could not remain very long and they too were forced to flee. Burning pieces of cloth fell all about the cars.
Soon there was heard the staccato of bursting gasoline tanks as the blaze reached the latest automobile models. Tent No. 1, which was fitted with columns to represent a Roman coliseum, soon succumbed to the spreading flames. One tent was decorated like an Oriental palace with bright reds and greens. That too was destroyed.
All this happened in a period of twenty minutes. A large smoke screen rose to the sky and attracted persons from all over the city. Traffic throughout the entire down town section was brought to a standstill. It was impossible to drive through a zone of about ten blocks about the show. In response to emergency calls every available police officer was hurried to the affected district but it was several hours before any semblance of order was secured.
Ten fire companies rushed to the blaze. Their efforts at even salvage were futile. They battled to prevent the flames from spreading to nearby property. In this alone were they successful.
The tents housed 326 cars, many expensive models. Nothing but twisted and blackened metal was left to indicate where formerly Packards and Chryslers and Marmon autos were displayed in their mirror-like glory. About $2,000,000 worth of property.
Two firemen were badly burned when they ventured farther into the tents than was safe. They received first degree burns about the hands and face.
Chief Scott said that if the fire had happened at any other time, say about eight o’clock in the evening, no one could estimate what might have happened.
Firemen and police are looking for the smoker. They hope that she has learned a lesson—although in this case, it was taught at a $2,000,000 expense.