Traveling Crane Throws Spark Into PipeEnamelling Liquid With Disastrous Results Foam Makes Quick Work of Blaze

A SPARK from a traveling crane which was lowering a large cage of conduit pipe into a 4500-gallon tank of enameling fluid in the plant of the Enameled Metals Company at 61 Bridge Street in the Borough of Etna, just across the Allegheny River from the eastern end of Pittsburgh, Pa., Tuesday afternoon December 7, about 4:30 p. m. caused an explosion and fire which resulted in damage to the plant estimated at $50,000 and endangered the lives of 150 workmen. The fire was only controlled and extinguished after a supply of Foamite was rushed to the scene from the city warehouse of the Foamite Company.

Nine Volunteer fire companies from the borough of Etna and surrounding boroughs fought the fire for quite a while without making much headway in extinguishing the fire, the water used by the volunteer firemen and the water from the automatic sprinklers which functioned properly only tended to spread the fire. Seeing that the fire was getting beyond the control of the volunteer firemen, the management of the Enameling Plant appealed to Pittsburgh for help through Chief Smith, stating that they could not extinguish the fire with water and asking Chief Smith to send them foam apparatus.

Not having any foam apparatus or extinguishers of this type in the department, Chief Smith sent Engine Company No. 9, located at Butler and McCandless Avenue, which is directly opposite the Borough of Etna, in command of Captain Philip D. Cooke, a fire company which has had plenty of experience in handling oil fires, being located in the oil refinery and paint factory district.

Chief Smith also notified the Enameling Company to get in touch with the Spang Chalfant Company, a large manufacturing plant which is near the plant of the Enameling Company, which plant is equipped with foam apparatus for use of their equipment, which was done, but owing to the inexperience of the volunteer firemen in handling this type of extinguisher, not much further progress was accomplished until after the arrival of Engine Company No. 9, which practically took charge of the situation. Immediately after the appeal to Chief Smith for foam apparatus. Chief Smith got in touch with the Foamite Sales Company’s warehouse and distributing station located in the downtown district of the city.

While he was trying to get the company on the phone, a representative of the Foamite Company stepped into the office to see the chief on some official business, just in time to take hold of matters. The representative immediately got in touch with the warehouse and notified them from the chief’s office to get apparatus and a full supply of Foamite ready for immediate service.

In the meantime Chief Smith volunteered the use of the fuel truck from the Third Battalion for quick service in getting the foam apparatus to the scene of the fire, the Foamite Company’s truck not being available to make the run. By the time the fuel truck reached the warehouse everything was ready to load. An appeal was made to the police department through Director of Public Safety James M. Clark for an escort of motorcycle police to get the truck through the congested traffic, which appeal was granted.

By the time the truck was ready to start the motorcycle police had reported and the start to the fire was made, a motorcycle leading the truck and one following in the rear. Having the right of way with the motorcycles as an escort and their loud sirens in action, the truck traveling at an average speed of between forty and forty-five miles per hour, made the run to the scene of the fire a distance of approximately six miles from the start in a short period of time. The fuel truck was loaded with a foam generator and a forty gallon F. M. Engine.

The captain of Engine Company No. 9 and the men under his command, after using the contents of their chemical on the fire and rendering what other service they could, knowing just what the Foamite Company would want in the way of help upon their arrival at the fire, had all their lines laid and all they had to do as soon as the truck arrived was to unload the apparatus, set it down, connect the line of Engine Company No. 9 to the Foam Generator, and set it in operation. Five minutes after the Foamite apparatus was put in action the fire in the enameling tank was completely extinguished and further danger of the fire spreading was at an end.

The tank in which the fire started was five by eight feet wide and eleven feet deep and was located in one corner of the building, a high one-story mill building seventy-five feet wide and one hundred and twenty feet long, constructed of structural steel with corrugated iron walls and roof, with skylight running the entire length of the building.

The fluid in the tank used in the enameling process consisted of linseed oil. naphtha and asphalt. This is the first fire the Enameling Company has had in one of these tanks for over twenty years.

The fire from the enameling tank extended to the roof of the building, destroying the greater portion of it. burning out all the window frames and skylights and doing damage to valuable ma chinery and other contents of the building. The enameling plant consisted of eleven mill and factory buildings of various sizes and class of construction, valued at over $500,000.

Engine Company No. 9 of the Pittsburgh Fire Department, consisting of an American-LaFrance 750-gal. triple combination pumper with 1,000 feet of 254-inch cotton rubber lined hose, a crew of six men, captain, pumpman and four hosemcn, was in service at the fire four hours and eighteen minutes and traveled a distance of three and one-half miles going to and returning from the fire. The company used one line of hose, 450 feet long, with seventy-five pound pressure at the hydrant. The pumper with the exception of the chemical tank was not used at the fire, the fire hydrant furnishing sufficient pressure in controlling and extinguishing the fire.

Chief Smith, through Mayor Charles E. Kline, of the city of Pittsburgh, received a very complimentary letter of appreciation from the Enameled Metals Company for the quick response and efficient service rendered by the Pittsburgh firemen and the chief’s cooperation and help in getting the Foamite apparatus to the scene of the fire.

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