Smoky Blaze, Originating in Cellar of Pittsburgh Building. Jumps Second and Mushrooms on Third Floor—Fought from Inside

A VERY smoky fire starting from some unknown cause late Saturday afternoon. May 29, swept a section of the Wallace Block, a large three story brick store and apart ment building located at Center, South Highland and South Sheridan Avenues in the heart of the East Liberty business district of Pittsburgh, Pa., causing a loss estimated at over $100,000. Several firemen were injured and a number of others were overcome by the smoke that rolled from the building.

The fire was first discovered by a woman in charge of the Quality Hat Shop, who smelled smoke for some little time. and upon opening the door in the store-room leading to the basement to make an investigation found the cellar entirely in flames.

Pittsburgh Firemen at Work on Big Business Block Fire. Most of the Fire-Fighting Was Done from the Inside.

About the same time a pedestrian discovered smoke pouring from the basement window gratings of the Holmes Wall Paper Store, next door to the hat shop, who sent in the first alarm from station 6112, which is directly in front of the burning building.

Four alarms were sent in for the fire before it was brought under control, calling to the scene ten Engine Companies, one Hose Company and four Truck Companies, Deputy Chief of the Department, one Battalion Chief and two acting Battalion Chiefs. At the second alarm Deputy and Acting Chief Frank G. Jones, arrived and took charge of operations.

Upon the arrival of the first alarm fire companies, the fire, which from all indications had been burning for some time, was spreading through the basements beneath the different store rooms and dense clouds of smoke from the burning wall paper handicapped the firemen for quite a while before they located the seat of the fire.

The fire raged in the basement unchecked for some time, the fire spreading from one basement to another and finally extending to the third floor, practically skipping the second floor, the fire finding its way to the third floor through a light shaft, air circulating shaft, rubbish chutes and working its way up between the inner and outer walls of the building, where it spread out over a considerable portion of the third floor.

Chief Surgeon Daniel E. Sable answered the second alarm and established a first aid station near the burning building and attended the firemen who were injured during the progress of the fire.

Seventeen pieces of fire apparatus, all motor driven and tractor drawn of the following makes, were in service at the fire:

Six 750-gal. American-LaFrance triple combination pumpers; Two 700-gal. Metropolitan Steam fire engines, each drawn by an American-LaFrance tractor; One 700-gal. I.aFrance steam fire engine drawn by an American-LaFrance tractor; Three American-LaFrance combination hose and chemical cars; One American-LaFrance combination hose and chemical car equipped with a Glazier monitor turret nozzle; One 75-ft. American-LaFrance tractor drawn aerial; One Seagrave 75-ft. aerial truck drawn by an American-LaFrance tractor; Two American-LaFrance city service trucks and one city service truck drawn by an American-LaFrance tractor.

In fighting the fire nineteen high pressure pumper and engine streams and three hydrant streams were used, with 7/8 1 and 1 1/8 inch nozzles; 8,700 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose and 450 feet of 1 inch lead line hose, and 366 feet of ladders being in service.

A sufficient number of Ludlow fire hydrants with single and double 4 1/2 inch openings, with pressures on hydrants ranging from 35 to 60 pounds, fed through large volume water mains from the Highland Park twin reservoirs gave the firemen all the water they required in controlling and extinguishing the fire.

A total of eighty one uniformed firemen were on duty at the fire consisting of the following classifications.

A hoseman was injured at the fire, receiving cuts and bruises across the face and head by being struck by a high pressure stream that got away from the control of the firemen, and a senior lieutenant suffered injuries while attempting to make his way into the basement of the burning building. The latter was going down a narrow ladder when he lost his footing and fell to the bottom, receiving cuts and bruises in bis fall.

Before he was rescued by bis fellow firemen he was overcome by smoke. Upon being brought to the surface he was given first aid and sent to the Homeopathic Hospital. The fireman was given first aid and sent home. A number of other firemen received minor cuts and bruises and were attended to on the fire ground by Doctor Sable.

The fire had to be fought almost entirely from the inside of the building and through the cellar windows and cellar openings on South Highland Avenue. Center Avenue and South Sheridan Avenue sides of the building. A number of improvised cellar pipes were used to good effect by the firemen in lighting the fire raging in the basement.

The burned building, which has been the scene of a number of other destructive fires in past years, was three story of brick, built over twenty years ago, fronting approximately 200 feet on South Highland Avenue, 150 feet on Center Avenue and 100 feet on Sheridan Avenue and contained eight storerooms facing Highland Avenue, six storerooms on Center Avenue and three storerooms on Sheridan Avenue and eighteen living apartments on the second and third floors in addition to quite a number of other single and connecting rooms which were occupied by doctors, music teachers, dress makers, etc. The interior of the building was entirely of wood construction, highly varnished, which made good fuel for the flames.

The duration of the fire was nine hours, being struck out at 1:31 on Sunday morning.

Map Showing District Around Large Business Block Fire in Pittsburgh, with Layout of Apparatus

Drawn by William E. Patterson


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