FIRE TRUCKS HELD UP AT CROSSING ANSWERING 2ND AND 3D ALARMS
Railroad Freight Train Delays One Fire Company Eight Minutes in Big Pittsburgh Churrh Fire — Burnings of the Week
SAIN’T STEPHEN’S Roman Catholic Church, Second Avenue and Elizabeth Street, Pittsburgh, Pa., was practically destroyed by fire early Wednesday morning, November 5, nothing but the four blackened walls and the two immense towers remaining of the beautiful structure. The fire, which evidently started in the basement of the church, was discovered shortly after four o’clock and from all indications upon the arrival of the fire department had been burning for some time. When the firemen arrived on the scene heavy clouds of smoke were rolling out of the basement and almost every window in the building.
About five o’clock the entire interior burst into flames, the immense structure becoming a roaring furnace in a short while and for a time the parish house, the sisters’ house and parochial school building nearby were threatened by the heat and flying sparks. Burning fire brands were carried through the air for some distance and endangered dwelling houses in the neighborhood.
Between 20 and 30 members of the Sisters of Charity were in the convent near the church. They clothed themselves, preparing to leave should the fire spread. Many persons in surrounding dwellings also left their homes when the flames burst through the roof of the church and leaped high into the air, illuminating the entire Hazelwood districts. While a number of firemen were on the Elizabeth Street side of the church a large wooden cross on the roof toppled to the ground. Ten firemen standing in the vestibule of the church where they were working had a narrow escape from injury or death when the top frame work, which had ignited, collapsed and fell with a crash around the fire-fighters.
Considerable delay was involved in transmitting the alarm to the fire department, causing the fire to make great headway. A milkman delivering milk at the parish house noticed smoke rolling out of the church, went to the rear door of the parish house and notified the priest that the church was on fire, after which he ran to the quarters of Engine Co. No. 13, two blocks from the church and notified the man on watch. In the meantime another man on the street, seeing the smoke rolling from the church, pulled the fire box on the corner just across the street from the building. No. 13 Engine Company was on their way to the fire before they received the alarm from the street box.
The first alarm from the street box (Station 226), Second Avenue and Elizabeth Street at 4:15 A. M., was answered by Hose Company No. 31 and Truck Company No. 13 in command of Second Battalion Chief Frank Harris, Engine Co. No. 13. the first company designated on the running card to answer Station 226. having answered the fire on the verbal still alarm. Immediately upon his arrival at the fire, Battalion Chief Harris, at 4:25 A. M., sent in a second alarm which brought Engine Co. No. 4 and 24 to the fire in command of Acting Battalion Chief Janies M. Hanlon as well as Deputy Chief Frank C. Eoxterman and Chief of Department M. F. Shanahan. A third alarm at 4:38 A. M. brought Engine Co. No. 14 and Truck Co. No. 14 to the scene of the fire. A special call at 4:40 and 5:01 A. M. brought Engine Companies No. 5 and 28 to the fire, making in all six engine companies, one hose company and two truck companies in service.
In controlling and extinguishing the fire, ten engine and pumper streams were used, 5.150 feet of 21/2 inch hose and 250 feet of 1 inch lead line hose, all cotton rubber lined and 198 feet of ladders. Seventy-seven men were on duty at the fire, including eight company commanders, the chief of department, deputy chief and two battalion chiefs. 1 he fire apparatus in service at the fire was as follows:
Three American-LaFrance 750-gallon triple combination gasoline pumpers. One American-LaFrance 700-gallon steam fire engine, drawn by an American-IaaFrance two-wheel tractor. One Amoskeag 700-gallon steam fire engine, drawn by a Christie two-wheel front drive tractor. One Amoskeag 900-gallon steam fire engine, drawn by a Christie two-whee front drive tractor. Three American-LaFrance combination hose and chemical wagons. One American-LaFrance city service truck. One Seagrave 75-foot spring hoist aerial truck drawn by an American-Lal* ranee four-wheel tractor.
Considerable delay was experienced by the fire companies answering on the second and third alarms and special calls in reaching the scene of the fire by the grade crossing of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Second Avenue and Marion Station being blocked by a freight train. Engine Co. No. 24, answering the second alarm, was held up eight minutes; Engine Co., No. 4, answering the second alarm, was held up five minutes, and Engine Co. No. 5, answering the special call, was held up two minutes, all valuable time lost.
Second Avenue from the downtown district to the city line which terminates about a mile east of the burning church is the only thoroughfare or outlet for fire companies answering alarm in the Hazelwood and Glcnwood disti icts as well as trolley cars and other traffic, this particular thoroughfare running almost its entire length, a distance of approximately five miles, being flanked on one side by the tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio R. R. and on the other side by rolling mills, blast furnaces, coke ovens and railroad shops and yards which occupy all the land between Second Avenue and the Monongahela River. Between the downtown district and the Hazelwood and Glcnwood residential districts there are five grade crossings on Second Avenue, two of these crossings being main line freight and passenger crossings of the Baltimore and Ohio R. R. and the other three being connections to mills and manufacturing plants.
Plenty of fire hydrants, all of the four-inch Ludlow type, all located within a short distance of the church, pave the firemen a sufficient supply of water to handle the fire.
Battalion Chief Frank Harris had a narrow escape from being killed when a timber fell from the roof knocking his fire hat down over his ears and injuring his right arm and shoulder. Chief Shanahan had just warned him to be careful and had just walked away to another part ot the fire ground when the timber crashed down into the ground striking Chief Harris in its fall. He was attended to by Dr. Daniel E. Sable, chief surgeon, D. P. S.
Saint Stephen’s church was a handsome one-story brick building built of light buff brick with white cut stone trimmings and slate roof, erected in 1902. Just recently costly improvements were made to the church, a new pipe organ being installed at a cost of $9,000 and a new steam heating plant at a cost of $20,000, the new brick stack erected on the outside of the (building connecting the heating plant only being finished about three weeks before the fire.
The church was 157 feet long and 90 feet wide with two immense towers, one at each corner at the front of the building, each tower being between 90 and 100 feet high to the top of the cross. The estimated value of the church and contents at the time of the fire was $200,000.
The cause of the fire which from all indications started in the basement in the rear of the church is unknown. The duration of the fire was 13 hours.
Underwriters Recommend Two Stations for RaleighThe most important recommendations of the Underwriters, following their recent survey at Raleigh, N. C., were the construction of two additional fire stations equipped with 750gallon triple combination cars.