Grain Elevator Fire at Newport News
A spectacular fire occurred at Newport News, Va., on the night of September 4, when the Chesapeake & Ohio grain elevator, the general offices of the railway company, the offices of the United States Shipping Company and the offices of the Clyde Steamship Company were burned down. Piers 4, 5 and 6 and several steamships moored there, as well as millions of dollars worth of surrounding propery, were endangered. The fire was discovered at 11.27 by the watchman on duty, but he lost his life in the battle with the flames and the origin remains unknown. An alarm was sent in from Box 6 of the fire alarm system and Chief W. K. Stow responded. He sent in two additional alarms, summoning fifty men from the city department. The Chesapeake & Ohio R. R. Company has its own pumping station and fifty of its own fire fighting force aided the men from the city department. There are two 12-inch mains along the 30-ft. street at that location. One carries fresh and the other salt water. There were fifteen 4-inch hydrants available, 75 feet apart. Eight hydrant streams were thrown and seven engine streams. The largest number of streams thrown at one time was 23. From start to finish the firemen had constant fight against the terrific heat. The heat kept driving the firemen back from time to time. Chief Stow was caught in the smoke and heat between two buildings and was knocked out for about an hour, but he recovered and resumed active work. The city department left the scene at 11 o’clock next day after placing streams all over the ruins, which were still burning. President George W. Stevens, of the C. & O. R. R. Company, sent $500 for the Relief Fund of the department and a letter of appreciation for their work. Telegrams and letters came to Chief Stow from persons knowing the conditions, commending the work of the chief and the department in accomplishing the seemingly impossible task pf saving the piers, which was done by Chief Stow’s men standing by their duty during such heat that streams had to be played on them while they held the nozzles. Piers 4, 5 and 6 were within two hundred feet of the main fire on which Chief Stow directed most of the streams and south of the main fire were all frame buildings, but after a hard fight the firemen succeeded in saving them all. The full loss is estimated at approximately $700,000. In order to go around from one side of the fire to the other Chief Stow had to make a 1 1/2-mile run in his car and he made five trips before he was able to work his way through on the front of the fire. Chief Stow, who has turned the sixty-fifth year mark and has been close to twenty years at the head of the department and has been connected with the department for 24 vears, said it was a fire never to be forgotten and that it is the heaviest loss Virginia has had since the Civil War, when all the mills burned in Richmond.
Photo by courtesy of Newport News “Daily Press.”