FIRE IN A SHIPBUILDING PLANT
Especially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.
The recent big fire in the American Shipbuilding company’s plant at West Bay City. Mich., was a very hard one to control, owing to the inflammable material of which it was constructed and the great heat the men had to encounter. The property, which was located at the west end of Bay City, in the Fourteenth ward, covered an area of about 300 by 700 square feet. It was for the most part constructed of wood, with some iron, and was from one to two stories in height. Owing to the distance of the plant from the main part of the city, there were only three six-inch, double hydrants available to work, and these were set 6co feet apart. The width of the space in front of the burning structure was fifty feet, and the property was supplied with water through an eightinch main. When the firemen, under Chief Thomas K. Harding, reached the scene the building was nearly half involved in flames. Two engines, a Clapp and Jones and Silsby were at once connected to the hydrants, and four good streams were turned on, with the intention of keeping the fire from reaching that part of the premises not vet on fire. The one-inch nozzles employed were inadequate to perform that task, and the extra stream from the third hydrant seemed to have little effect, so that attention was then directed to save the adjoining property, which was successful, in that only the main structure was destroyed, at a loss of about $250,000. Chief Harding had to lay 5.000 feet of hose, which shows how hard it was to get water near the premises. The pressure at the hydrants was forty pounds. There was no insurance on the property, and the principal loss was on the machinery, with which the large yard was equipped. A view of some of this equipment is shown in one of the illustrations accompanying this article. Chief Harding, in writing to FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING, says: “We were badly handicapped in fighting this fire for two reasons : First—the direct system of water service, with only two hydrants available, was crippled by reason of the intake pipe being filled with shell ice at the Saginaw bay, at which point the pump station is situated, and, as a consequence, not enough water could be had to supply the wells at the station for direct-pressure work. Second -on account of the tremendous start the fire had, before an alarm was turned in, and the condition of the yard inside the Company’s grounds, the work of the department was greatly hampered. The yards were covered with large castings, sheet steel and all kinds of shipbuilding materials. There were no regular alleys or driveways in the yard, all transferring l>eing done with steam hoisting apparatus. This being the case, we could not get our apparatusanywhere near the buildings on fire, and much valuable time was lost before we got into action. When we found the direct pressure-service was not doing the work, we were compelled to put the steamers in service. W ith them we got the fire under control, confining it to the buildings burning. Our hardest work was saving the ways under, and scaffolding round a large 6oo-foot steel boat under construction, directly east of the main body iff the fire and within thirty feet of the same. Had these supports under the boat burned, she would have tipped into the river and become a total loss. The boat was valued at $400,000. We were extremely fortunate in stopping the fire where we did, and, had it not been for our steamers, the immense yards of Bradley, Miller and company, directly in the line of the wind, and adjoining the ship plant, would probably have burned. These yards contain millions of feet of dry lumber. The shipbuilding company have let contracts for rebuilding the plant on a larger scale than before, and work is now under progress. The accompanying illustration showon the right, on the stocks, the large (xx> foot steel freighter in course of construction. All the scaffolding, as far as can be seen in the distance, on the right, was on fire. Had we not extinguished this scaffolding and ways under this boat and another one, as seen in the distance on the right, they would undoubtedly have turned over either into the river or land side and become total losses.”
At Bryn Mawr, Pa., the “Millionaire fire company,” held a meeting in the new fire house on Lancaster avenue, when the following officers, to serve one year, were nominated: President, Alba B. Johnson: first viceprcsident, Dr. William C. Powell; second. William Kighter Fisher; third, William S. Neill; recording secretary, C. W. Scott, P. A. Hart; treasurer, W. H. Ramsey.