FIGHTING FIERCE FIRE AT RACINE
Specially written for Fire and Water Engineering.
While a severe wind and snowstorm was raging early on the morning of December 12, fire broke out in the mill room of the Racine Manufacturing Company, in the central portion of the city of Racine, Wis. The plant covered an entire block and the buildings, six, four and three stories in height, were of brick and frame construction, and for the most part built a year ago or later. A watchman, going his rounds, discovered the fire, which seemed to be in a pile of lumber near the engine and boiler room and was apparently started by a back draught from the furnace, which is also the opinion of Fire Marshal James Cape, Jr., to whom we are indebted for our information. He promptly turned in an alarm and companies 5, 2, 3 and 1 responded, closely followed by Nos. 4 and 6 on a second alarm. No. 3 being first to arrive. They found the building, a six-story structure, 72×208 feet, a roaring mass of flames, which was spouting from five windows on the ground floor. Each floor was one big room, undivided by fire walls, and without any sprinkler or other protection, and the flames swept through the fp’eat open edifice without hindrance. From this building the fire jumped into a four-story frame structure 40xJ20 feet, thence into a second four-story frame building 00×77 feet and thence it communicated to a four-story brick building 340×40 feet. When the nature of the business carried on in this great plant, the manufacture of automobile bodies, piano stools, etc., is considered, the fierceness of the fire and the rapidity with which it spread, may be accounted for. Leaping across Mead street, the flames attacked a large four-story triangular building of brick running west to Racine and north to Sixth street, and several adjacent frame structures. I?y desperate effort, the firemen eventually saved the brick building, but the handsome Danish Brotherhood Hall, at the junction of Mead and Sixth streets, only recently completed, took fire and was desroyed. At the same time, the dry kiln of the Racine Manufacturing Company was burning fiercely and the flooring of the viaduct also took fire and was burned, with 800 feet of hose.
Firemen, scorched by the intense heat and blinded by showers of sparks, worked on heroically until they finally gained the upper hand, but at what a cost to the city ; the Racine Manufacturing Company have six buildings completely destroyed, with all their machinery, stock, etc., throwing upwards of twelve hundred men out of work and crippling the firm’s business: Mitchell & Lewis Wagon Company lose a warehouse containing axles and wagon parts, loss $10,000: Danish Brotherhood Hall, $16,000; Peter Zinnen brick block, $6,000; Peters’ boarding house, $3,500; H. Kelly, residence, $1,500; P. J. Nelson, residence, $1,200; twelve other residences damaged, $4,000 to $5,000; damage to viaduct, $7,000. Altogether the loss will amount to upwards of $500,000, with insurance of $199,000.
Kenosha sent men to help fight the flames and from Milwaukee also came willing helpers and much needed apparatus, but unfortunately too late to be of active assistance. All that brave men could do, against the warring elements, without considering personal safely, was done to combat the spread of the flames and when the nature and magnitude of the fire when first attacked, the severity of the weather and the character of buildings and contents are taken into consideration, the fact that it was subdued, with the means at the command of the firemen is remarkable. To combat the tremendous body of fire, there were present, under command of Fire Marshal James Cape, Jr., seven hose companies and one hook and ladder company. Twelve 6-inch double hydrants, spaced 250 to 300 feet, and served from a 6-inch main, connecting with a 16-inch main on the adjacent street, furnished from standpipe and direct pumping systems, water at 105 to 110 pounds pressure, adequate in quantity for good plug streams. Six thousand five hundred feet of cotton, rubber-lined hose was laid, none of which burst during the fire, the size of nozzles used was 1 1/4 inches, one Eastman nozzle was also used and 15 streams were thrown at one time on the flames. The damage was heavy and the territory burned large, but in view of the nature of the fire and the fact that hydrant streams alone were depended on in the fight with the flames, the city of Racine can consider itself fortunate and thank its brave firemen for its escape from a general conflagration, from which it was only saved, at several stages of the fire, by the hardest and most unselfish efforts of the force to which it looks for protection in so pressing a time of need.