DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN CLEVELAND

DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN CLEVELAND

How a Big Warehouse Was Wiped Out Despite the Work of High Pressure and Engine Streams

(Special Report of Fire and Water Engineering,)

A recent fire in the wholesale grocery house of the H. G. Christy Co. at 616-26 Huron road, Cleveland, O., caused a loss which might have been averted had proper structural conditions been observed, while the building was living erected. The fire startedfrom an unknown cause in the rear of the first floor, shortly after six o’clock p. m., just after the day watchman had transferred the keys to the night watchman and had left the premises. The night watchman, as is his habit, went to the basement where he turned on the gas for working a small engine used for elevator service in making hourly tours through the building. His next step was to make a fire under the boiler, and while he was thus engaged, he heard the crackling of flames on the floor above, which proved to be the fire. He claims that he at once pulled the manual fire alarm box on the first floor and that he was then compelled to leave the warehouse in order to save his own life, so rapidly did the flames spread. The record of the Central street station shows that the fire alarm reached there at 6:12 p. m. and was followed immediately by two alarms from other near-by boxes. At 6:22 a third alarm was turned in, and at 7:16 a special alarm for four extra companies was turned in. The warehouse was also equipped with the automatic fire alarm signal communicating with the central office of the National automatic fire alarm system. The latter must have worked slowly as the alarm was not received till 6:13 p. m. The several alarms brought IS steamers and four 3 1/2-inch hose lines from the high pressure service-suppliedby the fireboats with water pressure of 125 pounds, while at the hydrants a pressure of 190 pounds was shown. The water towers were not used. There was no delay on the part of the fire department. It arrived promptly and found that the flames had spreadto all the upper floors in the rear of the building, where the easterly and southerly walls within 35 minutes bulged and fell. The rapid progress of the flames was chiefly due to the accustomed unprotected vertical openings andil was materially helped by the combustible nature of the contents of the warehouse. The fire was thereby enabled to make immediate headway throughout the building, so quickly, indeed, as to become almost unmanageable. The fire got out of hand and the unprotected steel and iron supporting beams under the strain of the intense heat buckled and became twisted. This speedily brought about the collapse of the upper floors and caused the walls to bulge outwards. As has been said above, the easterly and the southerly walls gave way, hut the westerly, a party wall, being upheld by the adjoining building, withstood the pressure and remained standing. The destruction of the warehouse and its contents was complete and just as rapid as if the warehouse had been of light frame construction. The same company occupied the two-story building in the rear of 600-10 Huron road, whose east wall formed the party wall of the burned building. It communicated with the main building through openings on each floor, one opening in each case. Double fire doors were fitted to each opening, but neither the installation nor the construction of these doors was up to the modern standard. Still they were sufficiently fire-resistant to keep the fire from communicating to the two-story building at 600-10, and it was not seriously damaged. Good service was also rendered by the fire shutters over the openings in the south and west wall. These were closed at the time andthus the flames were prevented from lapping into adjoining buildings which were exposed to the flames. The two-story frame dwelling, however, was crushed out of existence by the falling of the east wall. No serious damage was done to the cold storage warehouse about 40 feet in the rear of the burned building, only its terra cotta cornice was broken by the east wall as it crashed down. Even the temperature within was not affected. The total loss amounted to $250,000, fully insured. The structural defects in the building were conspicuous. A building of such height and covering so large an area, with unprotected steel or iron supports and unprotected vertical openings was of such a nature as to invite speedy destniction by fire and it was not protected by sprinklers, which was a serious omission. Hence, no modern fire department, even though equipped with the most up-to-date apparatus and appliances, can be expected to handle a big fire in a high building, front the street grade, whereas in this case, owing to the fierceness of the flames raging within and the certainty, that, through the crash-inviting construction in the interior, disastrous loss of life would result to the firemen if it is impossible to handle the blaze. In this case the firemen were lucky, in that they confined the flames to the place of origin. Such a loss as that suffered by the Christy Company is liable to occur not only in every wholesale grocery establishment, but also in any other, such as wholesale paper or drug house, or one in which any manufacture is carriedon that involves the storage or handling of inflammable or explosive materials, unless due attention is paid to the avoidance of such errors in construction as are noticed above.

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