Destructive Fire at Grand Rapids.
With varnished, highly dried furniture a-plenty to feed on, fire ate up two large buildings in Grand Rapids, Mich., last week, causing a loss of $400,000 and giving Fire Marshal Henry Lernoin and his men twelve hours of the hardest fighting to save a large section of the city from destruction. It was just 8 p. m. when, by telephone and box alarm, the department was notified by an employe that the Sheppard Building, of which the furniture exchange forms part, was in flames, the tire having been discovered in the furniture store of Young & Chaffee, in the basement. With a knowledge of the character of the building and its contents, the firemen responded with alacrity, the first contingent to arrive quickly summoning help, until the entire effective firefighting force of the city consisting of seven engines—2 Metropolitan, 1 Nott, 1 Waterous, 1 Ahrens and 2 LaFrance—with their hose wagons and 1 aerial ladder truck were on hand.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but when the firemen arrived, it was burning fiercely in the basement, where it could not be reached, and the thick clouds of black smoke that filled the upper part of the building made that equally inaccessible.
The structure, 200×400 feet, and 5 stories high, was of brick and wood, with partition walls, but no sprinklers in working order. The Sheppard building was formerly partly equipped with sprinklers, hut when it was remodelled and the Furniture Exchange building erected in part with it, the sprinklers were disconnected and the connection had never been restored. When Fire Marshal Lemoin looked into the covered alley in the rear of the building, which, by the time he arrived was, with the entire rear of the Young & Chaffee store and the hack of the Furniture Exchange, a roaring furnace, he was almost ready to give tip hope, but summoning all the help possible, a resolute fight was made against the spread of the fire, and in spite of the fact that a great section of the supposedly fireproof wall between the Furniture Exchange and the Sheppard Building proper was torn out by the falling beams of a collapsing floor, the firemen succeeded in confining it within the four walls of the furniture building. That the roofs of the buildings were thickly covered with snow and ice, was also a factor in the firemen’s favor, many flying firebrands that would inevitably have started fires on dry roofs, being auto matically quenched. Only eight hydrants, 5 and 6-inch and set from 200 to 600 feet apart, were available, but they furnished good plug streams and supply for engines at 65 pounds pressure. The main in front of the building was 10 inches in diameter, the 60-foot wide street gave the firemen plenty of room to work. They laid 10,000 feet of cotton rubber-lined hose, one length of which burst during the fire. At one time 15 st reams were played on the flames, 7 from the eiwines and 8 hydrant streams. The diameter of the nozzles were from 3/4-in. to 1 3/4-in. Three-deck turret nozzles were also used. A water-tower would have been of great value, but Grand Rapids does not possess one, and to make matters worse, the big aerial truck, that does duty as a water tower, was stuck in a drift on its way to the fire and was in consequence late in arriving. The heat generated by the blazing mass of dry, varnished furniture was intense, steel beams’ buckled and melted, dropping floor after floor into the furnace created by the inflammable contents. Even the steel sheathing on the fire-proof doors was burned and melted off. depriving the firemen of what aid they might have afforded in preventing the spread of the flames. The furniture building was reduced to a mere shell of crumbling walls and is a total loss, file Sheppard building and contents suffered quite badly from smoke, heat and water. The Daily News office was swamped and smoked out and other property damaged, bringing the total loss, according to the report of our correspondent. Fire Marshal Lemoin, up to $175,000, of which $100,000 oil building and $75,000 on contents, largely furniture, placed on exhibition by leading manufacturers, who made the furniture building then selling headquarters. It was a spectacular and a costly fire and fully bore out the prognostication of Captain Goodrich of the fire department, when on looking over the stock and finishing room of Young & Chaffee, a few hours before the fire, a dutv religiously performed by the department every day during the finishing season, he remarked that if ever a fire broke out there, all the firemen in Michigan would be unable to save the building.