FIRE NOTES FROM NEWARK.
Specially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.
NEWARK, N. J., August 5.
Last week this city was the scene of a disastrous and fatal explosion and fire, the loss of property being great, while four lives were sacrificed at once, another within a very short time and two more subsequently from the effects. The building in which the explosion took place suffered in the same way, though not so disastrously, only one life being lost, in January last. It was occupied as a chemical plant by Charles Cooper & Co. and was situated at Van Buren and South streets. The plant has been on the same spot for fortyyears, and till January last there had never been an accident of any account. What caused one on this occasion collodion—a product of guncotton—or ignited the, is unknown. The soluble cotton was dried by stages in seven buildings, and then taken into one that was larger, where it was dissolved for various purposes. In the building where the explosion occurred men were at work placing the soluble cotton on small wooden frames covered with muslin, upon which the material is subjected to a drying process preliminary to its being made ready for shipment. Alongside that section of the collodion, where the men met their deaths, is the two-story section of the building, the roof of which fell when the crash came. In this structure is the mixing room, where the soluble cotton is prepared, the ingredients being nitric acid, a very fine sort of cotton and camphor. In this room there were always camphor gases. Here three men were trying to adjust a large tank in which the collodion is mixed. From the appearances of the building it is evident that the workmen were endeavoring to raise the tank through a sort of shaft to the second floor. One theorv as to the cause of the disaster, in fact, is that, in raising the tank on a block and fall, there was sufficient friction at one of the pulleys to cause the ignition of the camphor gases, the fire of which could easily have communicated to the extreme southern section of the drying-room, where a great quantity of the soluble cotton was under process. Besides totally wrecking the three sections of the brick building, nearby frame buildings were badly damaged, their frame sides being wrenched and splintered, while scarcely’ a window sash was left intact. The force of the explosion was strikingly apparent on the buildings surrounding the collodion. Two frame structures, which stood against the wrecked building, near the southern end, divided from each other by an alleyway, were badly damaged. One of them, used at times as a storehouse, was blown apart at the end which abutted on the structure which blew up, and large sections of bricks, mortar and beams were hurled through the windows. Through the alleyway which led to the collodion, there was a blast of debris that crashed through a low frame building, which stood about too feet from the wreck. To the west of the wrecked building is a four-story brick structure used by the Keratol Manufacturing company as a shipping department. Very great damage was done to this and other buildings adjoining. The explosion of January last took place in a frame building which stood on the site of that which was destroyed last week. At that time careful consideration was given to the question as to the character of a building in which the hazardous work should be carried on, the main object being the better protection of the employes As a result, plans were drawn up for the long onestory structure, destroyed the other day’. Between each of the seven sections was an air-chamber about a foot in width, and the walls were so constructed that, in case of an accident in one section, the other compartments, it was thought, would be safe. The fire department had no difficulty in extinguishing the fire.—The disaster followed very quickly on one of a few days before in the leather plant of M. Caffrey & Sons, 229-33 New Jersey Railroad avenue, where an explosion of varnish set the whole shop on fire and caused four deaths, those of the father, his two sons and an employe. Another son and three employes were seriously burned. The fire quickly spread, involving thwhole place and leaning to the frame junk shop of I. Liebstcin & Son, at Oliver street and New Jersey Railroad avenue. As soon as the blaze started an alarm was sent -in, and this was quickly followed by a third, when the department arrived and found how fierce the fire was. The Caffrey plant consists of a four-story brick building, fronting on the avenue, and in the rear is a threcstorv frame structure. The explosion took place in the yard in front of the frame building. The men were mixing a kettle of varnish which was boiling. Near them was a tank of naphtha. Either it or the varnish exploded, blowing the father and three sons to a considerable distance. The other men fared less badly. With the arrival of plenty of firefighting apparatus the burning buildings were surrounded and many streams were thrown on the flames. The frame building could not be saved, and only’ the walls of the brick building were left standing. In a very short time the junk shop was a mass of flames; but part of it was saved by hard work. An office building of the leather plant, fronting on Oliver street, was saved by’ a thick wall. Some think the disaster was caused by the heat of the sun playing upon the varnish kettle. The heat, it is said, ignited the vapor of the naphtha, which had been poured into the kettle with other liquids. There were several minor explosions in the course of the blaze. As all the firemen in the lower section of the city were kept busy on this fire, while the apparatus was on its way towards the leather works, two fires started in other parts of the city’, necessitating the use of the few engines remaining.—A third fire was of a somwhat similar kind, but less destructive; it took place early one morning last week in the leather plant of Blanchard Brothers & Lane, at McWhorter and Hamilton streets The structure was considerably burned, and many half-finished hides were ruined. The fire gave the firemen a hard fight for about an hour and a half before it was under control. The japanning building is a two-story brick structure, and is Lshaped. It occupies the northeast corner of McWhorter and Hamilton streets, and is separated from the rest of the leather plant by the firstmentioned thoroughfare. There was no one in the structure at the time, and smoke issuing from the place attracted the attention of a passerby who sent in an alarm. Engine companies Nos. 1, 3, 3 and 14 and hook and ladder company No. 4 responded. Battalion Chief Morgan saw that the flames, tinless quicklv checked, would ignite the surrounding property and rang a second alarm. This brought engines 2, 4. 8 and 10 and hook and ladder company No. 1 to the scene. The interior of the place was all ablaze when the firemen arrived, and the heat was so great that it was impossible to remain close to the blazing structure Water was thrown on and into the building from all sides, but had no effect until the fire had consumed all the inflammable material in the place. It was two hours before the flames were extinguished, and the adjoining property was saved with great difficulty.—Not before it was time the council’s committee on construction and alteration of buildings, after discussing the Cooper and Caffrey explosions, commissioned Chairman Dalrymple to confer with the fire board in an effort to have the proposed bureau of combustibles, authorised bv the last legislature, organised. The aldermen felt that the building department and the committee should be relieved of whatever responsibility now rests on them for the enforcement of ordinances relating to the storing of explosives. The committee agreed with Assistant Superintendent Miller when he said little or nothing was known by practical builders of the nature of explosives, and that there should be a man with technical knowledge to look after the storing of combustibles. It is well to be wise even after the fact, and to lock the remaining stable doors before all the steeds are stolen.