DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT PROVIDENCE,. R. I.
Early in the morning of March 19, Brovidence, R. I., was visited with another conflagration, fire breaking out in the Masonic Building on Pine street, totally destroying that structure, besides causing considerable damage to adjacent buildings in its rear. How the fire arose is still disputed. It is claimed that it started in the boiler room; but this the architects say could not have been the case, since they vouch for the room and the boiler being absolutely fireproof, being constructed of brick with a covering of iron and brick. They point out, however, that some little distance from the boiler room was the staircase in whose vicinity the fire was discovered. This was built of wood, and under it was a receptacle where ashes might have been temporarily deposited, and thus started the blaze. Be this as it may, when the firemen arrived, the building was well alight in its central portion. Being bounded by three streets—-Dorrance, Pine,and Eddy— it would have been a comparatively easy task to combat the flames; but the firemen were handicapped by the progress already made by the blaze, and the fire had reached a masterly headway before the efforts of the department counted for anything at all. The hydrant streams were weak and almost useless to begin with, and the fewstreams which were early thrown upon the building seemed quite futile. FromthePinestreetside the firemen played numerous streams from the fire escapes and roof of the Providence Opera house. That structure seemed the most probable victim of the obstinate blaze across the street, and the clouds of sparks which floated toward West, minster street threatened the Narragansett hotel continuously. In the meantime, the blaze in the central portion of the building was producing a perfect furnace. The interior woodwork and stock of the stores on the first and second floors and the elaborate furnishings of the Masonic halls were . tinder to the increasing blaze. In less than half an hour from the time the blaze was discovered,the central and rear portions of the building, comprising the halls and lodge rooms of the Masonic lodges, were enveloped in flames, and the bare walls formed a perfect chimney for the column of flames. The water tower was ordered to be removed but a few minutes before the Dorrance street wall fell. From the time of the . crashing of the side and rear walls the work of the firemen was simplified and the at first menacing blaze was under control about 5:30 o’clock.
In addition to the lack of sufficient water power, the firemen were likewise handicapped by the rapid and furious course of the flames up the ventilating and elevator shafts, whence they branched off in every direction and bade defiance to the twenty-two streams of water which were poured upon them by engine and water tower—whose operations as well as those of the firemen, were, of course, impeded by the inevitable overhead wires. The flames spread from the temple to the adjoining buildings,three or four of which were gutted. Indeed, had it not been for the heroic exertions of the firemen under Chief Steere, the destruction of property wonld have been much greater. Officers and men worked faithfully and well, Chief Steere and his assistants showing the greatest intelligence and science in fighting the fire at every point where it was most assailable, and all displaying wonderful pluck and staying powers under most disheartening conditions. Except for one fireman, Otis B. Dill, who had a narrow escape from death through a blow on the head, no casualties were reported. The losses were very heavy, probably much over $250,000, fully covered by insurance.