Dry Bearing Causes Fire in Sash Factory
Flying Embers Spread Fire Throughout the Plant—Big Blaze Develops from Small Source
THE fire described in this article of the series on administration is of interest in that it differs from previous fires treated in these columns. It occurred in a city having but three engine companies, one ladder and one hose company in the department.
The building, as shown in the sketch, was entirely of frame construction and was in about the worst housekeeping condition that could be imagined.
Due to the fact that it was located in the surburban section of a small town no attention was given toward the enforcement of the fire protection ordinances which were on the statute books of the town.
At the time the fire occurred the building was well filled with unfinished and partly finished woodwork used in the construction of window casing, window sashes and doors. There was a vast amount of shavings around the plant and dust on every rafter.
As shown in the sketch there was to the rear of the plant a number of piles of lumber, while on the near side was one large pile of lumber completely surrounded by piles of shavings.
A shaving collector was provided and the shavings sold to a contractor. Due to the contractor’s failure to promptly remove the shavings at all times, it was frequently necessary to dump the shavings on the ground and shovel them to one side in order to keep the collector clear.
The collector itself was built of woodwork except the covering on top of which was of sheet metal.
The Fire Department
The fire department, as noted above, consisted of three engine companies, one ladder company and one hose company.
Each of the engine companies was equipped with a triple combination pumper while the ladder truck was of the city service type and the hose truck of the hose company of the combination chemical and hose type.
The manual force of the department was very limited, there being an average of three paid men to each company. Call men were provided by the rules of the department, but at this fire they showed up in small numbers due to the fact that most of them were at work elsewhere.
The fire started about two o’clock in the afternoon when the shop was very busy and well filled with materials. A pulley bearing, up near the ceiling became dry and the pulley “froze.” Immediately the belt began slipping, but before anything could be done flame burst forth just above the pulley, apparently in dust which had accumulated there.
Fire promptly started at this noint and traveled quickly along the various rafters. An attempt was made by the employees of the plant to brush the fire off but due to the fact that they could not quickly get up to the height of the rafters fire continued to spread until it had reached the corner wherein was stacked a great quantity of window sashes and door frames, piled up to the roof.
At this time the superintendent transmitted a call for the fire department by phone bringing one engine company and the ladder company, with the chief in charge.
The chief showed good judgment and immediately transmitted a call for the balance of the apparatus.
At this fire there were available four hydrants. No. 1, two hundred feet from the fire; No. 2, two hundred feet from the fire; No. 3, one hundred feet from the fire; No. 4, five hundred feet from the fire.
All of the rest of the hydrants were farther than 800 feet from the building.
The mains were apparently of good size and 45 pounds pressure was available at all times.
The chief, upon rolling in. placed Engine Co. No. 1 at hydrant No. 3. stretching two lines and operating on the fire within the building.
By the time the fire department had arrived, however, due to the great distance it had to travel, the interior of the building was fully ablaze and little could be done toward extinguishing the fire until the arrival of reenforcements.
Both of the lines from engine company No. 1 were operated with the assistance of the members of the truck company, on the fire.
They could do no more than hold their own while awaiting for additional apparatus.
Seven minutes elapsed after the chief called the remaining apparatus, before it rolled in. In the meantime fire continued to burn furiously among the materials in the building.
Unnoticed to the chief, fire apparently traveled through the dust collector piping and reached the dust collector outside of tlie building. A pretty fair wind was blowing and fire after droping to the shaving collector reached the piles of shavings on the ground and commenced spreading the fire around through these piles, fanned by the wind.
Upon the arrival of engine companies Nos. 2 and 3, they were placed respectively at hydrants Nos. 1 and 2, each laying in a single line.
It was necessary to press into service some of the workmen around the plant.
The fire department quickly operated from the near side of the building and forced the fire backward through the building toward the two-story end.
With all of the lines in operation the department did good work in handling the main fire.
However, in the meantime the shavings outside of the building commenced to burn furiously and the wind carried them to remote points, setting fire to the lumber on the near side of the building and also starting fire on the roof of the plant.
The fire on the roof started burning alongside the two-story building, which fire up to this time had not entered.
The department was required about this time to direct some attention to the lumber piles, breaking the forces into two, using two lines within the building and two lines on the lumber piles.
The two lines within the building were holding the fire nicely when it was discovered that the two-story structure was ablaze throughout the second floor—evidently from the fire starting on the roof of the one-story building from shavings.
Due to the wind, from this point on fire seemed to increase in intensity and before any headway could be made toward holding the fire in the two-story building the lumber piles beyond the low building took fire and from then on the fire department was faced with a hopeless task.
The building was completely destroyed as well as a large amount of the lumber on the far and near sides of the building.
The Editor’s ideas on handling this fire will be given in the next issue of FIRE ENGINEERING.