At 4 o’clock on the morning of April 17, the roof of the grain elevator at the Hoosac Tunnel docks, Charlestown, was completely blown off by a dust explosion. A fire followed which not only damaged the remaining portion of the large structure, but consumed nearly the entire contents of over 400,000 bushels of grain, mostly wheat. Some of the small houses adjoining and a building used as a distillery by Chapin & Trull were damaged about $15,000 worth by water and flying timbers. The explosion not only shook up the entire section of Charlestown,but was felt in Boston proper and many of the suburbs. Coming at such an early hour,the tremendous jar aroused half the city, and the flames which followed,shooting 200 feet in the air, attracted thousands of spectators. Four alarms were turned in, and additional engines were sent for until three-quarters of the fire department, including the two self propelling engines and the fireboats, was massed in the immediate vicinity—but not before the entire structure was enveloped in smoke and flame. When the first firemen arrived they found some of the streets impassable,as portions of the roof were blown in every direction. Large rafters had been blown in the air, and many of the upper stories of neighboring property were crushed and pierced by the great beams. No one was near the exterior of the building when the explosion took place,except the night watchman,who was on the ground floor, lie was hurled against the side of the building, and,although badly bruised and torn, mans ed to crawl to a place of satety before the fire gained any headway. The fire burned fiercely for nearly four hours before it was even under control; and, when it was extinguished, there was only a shell of the structure left, while bursting from every side wetc tons and tons ot wheat and oats. Much of the grain fell through the pier to the dock, and almost all of it was so thoroughly soaked with water that the loss will be complete. At one time it looked as if the Charlestown Navy yard, a few hundred feet distant, would be burned; but the fire department succeeded in confining the flames to the elevator. The entire loss, amounting to about $600.000 (of which the loss on grain alone was $450,(500 and on the elevator $i5o,(Xx)), is covered by insurance. This fire loss has not been equaled in Boston since 1895. Of the 400,000 bushels of grain in the elevator, the elevator officials say that more than one half was wheat awaiting shipment to Europe and owned by J. V. Leiter.of Chicago. All of this was insured.

The following letter from Commissioner Russell to Chief Webster was sent through the department. It shows what the commissioner thinks of the handling of the fire.

L. P. Webber, Chief of Department—Sir: You will please accept for yourself and express to the district chiefs and to the department my full appreciation of the work done at the grain elevator lire in Charlestown yesterday morning, where there were many conditions favorable to a conflagration, prevented only by intelligent and zealous use of the available apparatus; and to those members who, on their ’* days off,” reported for duty, the thanks ol the department are due for their help, as well as for their interest in preserving our good reputation. The result accomplished is a most gratifying proof that during the last three years the department has lost none of its efficiency, and can with all confidence look to the future for just such proofs of its excellence whenever called to trying situations,

(Signed) II. S. RUSSELL, Commissioner,

April 18, 1898.

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