HARD WORK IN FIGHTING COTTON FIRES

HARD WORK IN FIGHTING COTTON FIRES

Cotton fires are always dreaded by firemen, not only on account of the stifling smoke that accompanies them, but, also, because of the difficulty attendant in extinguishing them. They are probably most formidable when they take place at sea, as they are very likely to do, in consequence of careless handling when the cotton is being stowed away in the hold, or even when it is being baled. When the former is taking place, especially when, as is usuallv the case, it is nearlv impossible to prevent the laborers from indulging in surreptitious smoke, one tiniest spark from a pipe or cigarette escaping unseen may smoulder for hours, even days, and no fire break out till the vessel is in mid-ocean. Even on the docks and m the warehouses the same risk is seen, increased by the danger of friction generating sparks, owing to the use of iron tools and iron bands to bind the bales. Carelessness in shipping and unshipping forms a common cause of such fires. Even in New York harbor may sometimes be seen lighters loaded with uncovered cotton bales, and wdth loose cotton exposed all over, inviting sparks from smokestack or the pipe of the careless smoker, or it may be that the cotton is dampened in the process, and is stowed away in that condition. Spontaneous combustion is then set up, and, after possibly a long interval, a fire breaks out, the outcome of which may be very disastrous. In England special precautions are taken in the principal seaports to guard against such fires, and for some years the Liverpool docks were in constant danger from that source, and the insurance rates were correspondingly higher. The warehouses, however, are now built even more fire-resistant than before, with the result that disastrous cotton fires have of late years been much rarer. So long, indeed, had this fortunate condition ruled that the chairman of the city’s fire committee had publicly referred to the matter as one for congratulation. Within less than a month, how ever. such a blaze took place in a six-story block belonging to the Liverpool Warehousing company, with a main frontage on Vulcan street and extending back into Vatidries street. As work was going on in the building, fire broke out suddenly among the bales of cotton on the secon 1 floor. As the rule against smoking is enforced with heavy penalties against the offender, the origin cannot have been the accustomed cigar or cigarette stub nor drippings of lighted tobacco from a pipe. It must, therefore, be set down either to spontaneous combustion, to some fire that had been lying hid and smouldering in tire bale till such time as it was exposed to the action of the oxygen of the atmosphere on being opened out, or to,some spark from the contact of the workman’s tool with the iron band r: mrd the bale or some nail that had accidentally dropped into the cotton while it was being packed. The fire was a fierce one. and the suddenness with which it broke out gave the workmen very little time to escape. The flames were attacked by Chief Officer Thomas, who placed his engines on each street, front and rear. Lines of hose were carried up the brigade’s fire escapes and into the burning warehouse, while streams were thrown from the street. The accompanying illustrations (reproduced from Fire and Water, of London) not only show the methods pursued, but, also, the firemen working on a fire-escape, whose extended ladders were raised several feet, so as to give the men a better chance to throw water on the smouldering cotton on the first and second floors. Owing to the blinding smoke, the men had not been able to see that the safetylocks were not in position as they should have been. The result was that the ladders telescoped, and the men, the three in the illustration, were thrown to the ground a distance of thirty feet. One was very severely hurt, his jaw being fractured and his whole system shocked. A second was badly bruised and shaken up, the third being slightly injured. It took three hours to get the fire under control, during which several sections of the floors collapsed; the roof was partially damaged, with a loss of $125,000. The good work of the brigade confined the fire to the building in which it originated.

Firemen Working in Rear of Cotton House Fire, Liverpool. The Streams are Greatly Exaggerated.Firemen Working on Ladder at Cotton Fire, Liverpool, Before Accident Occurred

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