Fire Prevention in Seattle

Fire Prevention in Seattle


Information about actual fires should always assist the cause of fire protection, as frequently practical and useful lessons may be drawn from them. Your readers may find something to interest them in these notes on fires in Seattle, Wash., recently: About one o’clock in the afternoon of a day not long ago some workmen discovered fire under the floor of a finished lumber warehouse alongside the big ship shed of the Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company. This plant has built a battle-ship and had then, close to where this blaze was first seen, a “submarine” for the Chilean navy and a number of other vessels. The alarm was promptly given and the department responded quickly. The first hose wagon to arrive took a private hose connection about the center of the company’s yard, and unluckily this proved defective. The city water pressure there is about 125 pounds, and yet the first stream did not go over ten feet. A thirty-mile-an-hour wind was blowing and buildings and lumber were dry. With such a stream against them, one can easily imagine how the flames grew and spread before the nearest fireboat (Engine 5) could get in action from the harbor side. In a few moments the entire warehouse was burning and flames were running up the ship shed eight feet into the air, while planing and saw mills to the north were smoking with most threatening that the department of Seattle has been confronted with in years. Assistant Chief W. H. Clark sent in a second alarm soon after his arrival, and a third a few minutes later. In spite of the firemen’s best efforts, they were driven away from the planing mill and the latter quickly became a mass of flames. The long saw mill was broadside to the approaching fire, but most fortunately had a metal roof, which withstood the intense heat. At the most critical time, brands blew into the top of a dry kiln on the other side of the saw mill, and this structure was soon in a furious blaze, but sprinklers within proved of great service. When this second fire was seen mounting into the air, little blazes were started two or three hundred yards away to leeward and clouds of smoke rolled into the business portion of the city, causing fear of a general conflagration. The heavy streams from Fireboat 5 wet down the immense ship house and took the life out of the original fire. Fireboat 31 got good action on the one involving the dry kilns. The land companies did most excellent work with lines from steamers and city and company hydrants, and within an hour the flames were under control. An elevated monitor nozzle was worked by the mill men all through the fire, but was not in a location to be of much service, although the stream thrown was good. The photograph shows where the flames wete checked among the lumber piles. The total loss was $18,861.77, but more than twenty times that value was in imminent danger in the ship building plant.

Several months ago the fire and building departments of Seattle, acting together in the course of their regular work, inspected a certain wholesale drug house and required the enclosure of elevator shafts and stairways. There was a vigorous protest from the owners and every effort followed to block the carrying out of the order. After being turned down by the Board of Appeals, the owners went ahead with the work and it was not quite finished when fire broke out early one morning on the second floor. It was a quick and hot one from the start and made lively work for the fire department, but in this case the firemen had a chance. The contents of the floor were practically burned out, with a loss of about $30,000, but the fire did not get to any other part of the building. The elevator and stairway enclosures, made of double plank, with hard plaster on both sides, stood the heat admirably and so did the fire doors. The two stories above were well smoked, but were not damaged by fire. Part of the loss was of course by water on the lower floor, but without the enclosures the building would have been destroyed.


Within a week from this fire a blaze was discovered in the rear of a basement of another four-story building, and also in the early morning. This block was also of mill construction and contained electrical supplies on the first floor and below, and rubber goods in the second, third and fourth stories. When first seen the flames were rushing up the open wooden elevator shaft and within two or three minutes they had reached the top floor and spread under the roof. By connecting a line of hose to the rear pipe in the basement, the fire there was held within twenty feet of where it started, near the alley wall. Firemen in the next basement could hear the splashing of water from the revolving nozzle on the iron pipe, against a wooden door in the partition wall. This saved the stock under the first floor. In the Seattle system the hose is coupled to permanent basement pipes which run out on the front sidewalk, the other ends being distributing nozzles. On the fourth floor, which was also the top of this building, the flames did great damage and the roof was practically burned off. A dividing wall of brick had been carried up solidly to the ceiling of the top floor and there ended, leaving an open space above. Through this the fire traveled into the next section of the building and spread under the roof.

Here is a case where the enclosure of the stairways and elevator shafts, as in the wholesale drug house, would have confined the fire to the rear of the basement and saved 95 per cent, of the loss, which was about $50,000. Worse than that, a precisely similar fire in the same basement, twelve years ago, went to the roof the same way and caused an even greater loss. We hope it will not be necessary to say that this will not happen a third time, if the city authorities can prevent it.

Truck 1 of Springfield, O., with its motor, has answered every alarm in that city for five years. It has just been provided with new transmission gears.

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