DELAYED DISCOVERY RESULTS IN HEAVY LOSS AT WAREHOUSE FIRE
Building Completely Involved When First Apparatus Arrived
A FOUR-STORY brick warehouse, approximately half a block square, owned by the Davis-Cleaver Produce company of Quincy, Ill., was destroyed by a three-alarm fire early in the morning of Oct. 28. Loss of the building and contents is estimated at $225,000 or more.
The fire of undetermined origin gave the fire department one of its worst workouts in years and resulted in the injury to two firemen and near-injury to three others, including Chief George Simon.
The structure contained 77,000 square feet of floor space and was filled to capacity with packaging supplies used by the Davis-Cleaver company at its processing plant four blocks away. The contents included 40,000 paper cartons used in shipping frozen turkeys, tons of poultry feed, 10,000 metal cans used in processing frozen eggs and tons of other materials used in shipping poultry, butter, frozen eggs and other products.
The fire was discovered by Irving Wheeler, a janitor at the Adams county court house, who was on his way to work. Smoke was pouring from every window and fire was raging in the center of the building. He transmitted an alarm at 5:11 am.
Chief Simon sounded, by radio, a second and third alarms, bringing additional apparatus, the off-shift men and the Tri-Township crew and apparatus. The latter company answers alarms in adjacent townships to Quincy and major alarms in the city. Its men are paid out of taxes from the townships. The crew has a new 500-gallon pumper.
The building was entirely involved when first alarm equipment arrived. Five minutes after the first lines were directed into the roaring flames, the roof collapsed and a section of the south wall caved in. Ten minutes later a section of the east wall fell in, forcing three crews to flee for their lives. One line was lost under the tons of brick.
The building had been used for years as a show case factory. Upper floors were covered with an inch thickness of varnish, paint and veneer and this combination made more fuel for the flames. There were frequent small explosions caused by barrels containing inflammable liquids exploding.
A stiff southwest wind blew off the Mississippi river, a block away, and flaming pieces of cantons were carried for miles. Roofs of three business places four blocks away were ignited, but the fires were quickly extinguished.
Within 10 minutes after all-alarm equipment reached the scene, the entire structure was a flaming inferno. The heat was so intense that some crews could not get close to the flames. Chief Simon’s department car, parked a quarter of a block away, had to be moved. The paint was scorched and the windshield was cracked by the heat.
By 9:30 the building bad been consumed but flames burned fiercely in the debris under which were buried many tons of processing supplies. Three streams were kept on the ruins continuously through Oct. 30.
Fourteen lines, including four turret nozzle streams, were used in battling the spectacular fire. Four 1,000 gallon pumpers, two of 750 gallons capacity, one of 500 gallons, one 100-foot aerial, a rescue squad and the Tri-Township crew’s pumper were used.
Fireman Ted McCaughey, a member of the aerial ladder crew, was on the aerial directing a line down into the fire which had then spread into the large dormer section of the roof of the Michelmann Steel Construction company, immediately to the north of the warehouse. A sudden shift in the wind blew flames across the street and McCaughey was enveloped in them. Fellow firemen below on band lines quickly threw a spray on him as he came down, his clothing smoking. McCaughey suffered first and second degree burns on his arms and back and was hospitalized.
Photo Courtesy Quincy “Herald Whig”
Photo Courtesy Quincy “Herald Whig”
Henry Bower, driver of Engine company 6, sustained a deep gash on his left leg when a piece of flying metal struck it. He received hospital treatment and later returned to quarters.
Chief Simon and Pipeman John Feld and Sylvester Keck were moving a turret when the pump pressure was increased. The turret shot 15 feet in the air, swung there crazily for a few moments, then slammed to the ground. Feld flattend himself on the pavement to avoid being hit, but the nozzle, which was demolished, struck Chief Simon on his right hip.
The building was located on the northwest corner of Second and Maine, two blocks west of the west of the downtown shopping district and on the north side of the east approach to the Quincy Memorial bridge, which spans the Mississippi to Missouri.
Traffic was halted on the mile and a half long structure four hours, causing terrific traffic jams at the Quincy end and at Taylor. Mo., seven miles from the west end of the bridge. Traffic was opened at 9:30, but halted three times for Hours while firemen pulled down-the fire-shattered south walls which threatened to topple into Maine street.
Fire department officers and company officials could not account for the fire’s origin. There was no heat in the building and the electricity was turned off every night.
Records at the water works station showed that 2,542,000 gallons of water were used in fighting the fire.