Hope Valley Fire.
The plant of the Nichols & Langworthy Machine company, at Hope Valley, R. I., the principal industry of the place, was recently destroyed by a fire that at one time threatened to sweep the whole village, which has no fire protection and is dependent upon a bucket brigade, except in cases where private equipment may have been provided. The efforts of the bucket brigade are assisted, when possible, by spreading wet rugs, carpets and blankets on the shingle roofs. The fire started shortly after 12 noon in the gasoline engine building, used for testing and assembling gasoline engines and light machine work. The general manager and three or four men had been working there during the morning; but no testing had been done that day. At 12:10 men left building, practically together, and in ten minutes later it was a mass of flames. This building was not sprinklered, and, while gasoline was pumped to the engines from outside tank, below grade, there may have been a small amount of gasoline or gasoline vapor in the room. A very high wind was blowing from the southwest, carrying flames directly against the unprotected windows and the very heavy wood cornice of the machine shop group of buildings. The Knowles pump and the Blake Underwriters pump were at once started; but the rotary pump was out of commission (the wheel and shaft operating it being under repair). One hose line was attached in connection on the north side machine shop, one line at the connection on the southwest corner of machine shop and two streams at the pump. At the same time two hose streams were brought over the bridge from the rotary pump at the woolen mill across the river. These latter streams did much to protect this and exposed dwellings, being by all reports the best and strongest streams available at any time, and operated all the afternoon and early evening till the fire was under control. The open sprinklers on the shingle roof of the woolen mill undoubtedly saved that property. As to the pumps at this plant, there are two reports—one by the officers of the company and the engineer, who state that they worked well all through the fire. All other reports, including one mill owner, the watchman at the wooden mill, town constable and at least four employes interviewed, agree to the following: For a time after the pumps were started everything worked well, until the packing blew out at the air-chamber at Knowles Pump, somewhat affecting its action. Then the pin of the arm in connection with the pump-piston of the Blake Underwriter pump broke. The pump was stopped for an hour while the pin was bored out and a new pin adjusted. This was at a critical time, and probably left the sprinkler system with little or no water. Undoubtedly the streams from these pumps were always feeble because of the great number of heads opened, ruptured piping, etc. The post indicator gate in the 6-in. pipe to the woolen mill was never opened. At the time of the inspection all the valves were open; the tank on the hill was empty, and the tank in the tower on the ground. This fire also destroyed stone storehouses to the north and badly damaged a number of dwellings nearby. It is said that mills and houses one-half mile distant caught repeatedly from sparks, and practically every man in the village was fighting the fire in various places. The loss through the burning of the old stone house was $10,000. Help was asked from Westerly; but the N. Y., N. H. & H. could not furnish a special train, and Wessterly did not care to send an engine 10 or 32 miles over the roads. New London and Norwich, however, sent help. A flying ember set fire to the clock tower of the Hope Valley woolen mills and brought it down with a run. Otherwise the woolen plant was not injured, as the employes formed a bucket brigade and used the water from the Wood river with good effect in its case and that of several nearby’ frame cottages. The loss was at least $210,000, fully insured. The buildings of the machine company that were burned included the testing-room, experiment-shop and main machine shop, tire latter a 2-story brick building, with a pitch roof that added an extra half-story in the centre of the building. This building was about 50×100 ft., while the testing-room, a new brick building, was about the same size and build. The other buildings of the plant that were saved included the pattern shop, pattern storehouse, boiler-shop, boileroom, foundry, compressed-air room and sheds. A tank containing between 50 and 100 gal. of gasoline was in the path of the flames, and the cover was burned somewhat; but still it did not explode. About twenty buildings tn the valley were slightly injured by sparks setting fire to the roof. Amongst these were the Locustville mill, half a mile from the scene of the main blaze; the Hope Valley mill, just across the river; Mathewson’s stable and the railway station. It may be noticed that, in this case, as in that of other fires in sprinklered buildings and those equiped with powerful pumps, how the benefit of such protection is lost, owing to the lack of seeing to it that all the equipment is in thorough repair. The human element looms large as a factor of safety or danger at such times.