DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT KALAMAZOO
The Burdick house, the leading hotel of Kalamazoo, Mich., was totally destroyed on the night of December 8. The weather was most severe; in fact, owing to the high wind and bitter cold that prevailed, it would be difficult to picture anything more trying upon the endurance and courage of the firemen than the occasion presented. Discouraged from the start by lack of powerful apparatus to fight such a conflagration, the men set about to do the best that in them lay in an endeavor to accomplish what seemed a hopeless task. In the lower part of the hotel was an arcade, which was a favorite shopping center, and it was in the stores here that the greatest loss occurred. It was about 10:30, when most of the guests in the hotel had retired, that a tire was discovered in the basement of the building under the Star bargain store. The night watchman discovered the flames and sent in a still telephone alarm to headquarters calling for a chemical engine. This was immediately followed by a box alarm and another telephone summons. When Chief Russell and his men arrived on the scene the entire basement, in which the bargain store had a big stock of holiday goods, was tilled with dense smoke. There were gratings set in masonry over the window openings, which impeded the work of the men for a time, and the fire, in the meantime, was extending among the inflammable material so that in an incredibly short interval the whole building became involved. In the special report furnished this journal the building is described as a flimsy affair, built of brick and wood, mostly the latter. It was four stories high, fronting 170 feet on Main street and running through the block to the street behind. The main part was fifty-five years old, and the rear addition of more modern construction. That such a building could withstand a fierce fire when once started was inconceivable. There was only one brick partition wall in the hotel, and no special means of fire protection. There was one plucky and persistent heroine connected with the house whose noble act well entitles her to a place with those whose names are inscribed on the roll of fame. This was Miss Nina Harrington, the hotel telephone operator. She soon realized what had happened, and although sitting with water up to her knees and almost choked with smoke she never quit her post until the last guest in the place had been notified of the danger and received a response from each. By this prompt action no doubt loss of life w’as averted and all the patrons were enabled to leave the building, which in a short time after was only a mass of smouldering ruins.
In the face of a pitiless winter wind that froze their fingers to the nozzles and coated them with ice the Kalamazoo firemen fought like heroes to prevent the spread of the flames, although handicapped by the absence of their largest engine, which was undergoing repairs. Aided by the firemen of Battle Creek, who in response to a request for help came down with a large size LaFrance engine and worked like beavers and two secondsize LaFrance engines with their tireless crews from Grand Rapids they succeeded in confining the fire to the block in which it originated. About half the block was burned, including, in addition to the hotel, a number of adjacent buildings, while the entire block is demoralized as far as business is concerned. The establishments actually destroyed, several of which were tenants of the hotel, were a shoe store, grocery store, two haberdashers, the Postal telegraph office and several minor concerns. The efforts of the firemen were mainly directed to preventing the flames from crossing Burdick street, and in this, aided by a fortunate change in the wind and the arrival of the welcome assistance from Battle Creek and Grand Rapids, they were successful. In addition to the apparatus from outside, the Kalamazoo department had one third-size LaFrance engine to start work with on the fire. Besides this six hydrant streams were available and with seven engine streams later on made thirteen used towards the end of the fight. The nozzles used were of lVfs-inch diameter, besides a Glazier turret pipe. The street in front of the property, which is 100 feet wide, is provided with a 16-inch main and eight hydrants, five 8-inch and three 6-inch, spaced 200 to 300 feet apart. The water pressure furnished by direct pumping was about 90 pounds at the hydrants. The pressure was insufficient to insure good plug streams and supply the engines, therefore an additional supply was obtained from the standpipe of the State Insane Asylum, by which the deficiency W’as fully supplied. About 7.000 feet of cotton, rubber-lined hose was laid, none of which burst during the fire, nor was any casualty to the firefighting force reported beyond the effects of the smoke and the intense cold, and only their indefatigable efforts, ably directed by Chief Russell and his aids, prevented the destruction of the city’s entire business section.