HOT SPRINGS CONFLAGRATION
Specially reported for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING
Some time ago Hot Springs, Ark., was visited with a conflagration which extended over a square mile of territory, burning more than forty city blocks, with a loss of some $2,000,000. with an insurance of only $900,000, and only two lives were lost. The flames were confined principally to the southern, or residence portion of the city, leaving the business section and the large hotels and bathhouses on the government reservation for the most part unaffected. The blaze, which started at 3:30 a. m. and lasted five hours, was the worst the State had ever experienced. It broke out in the office of the Grand Central hotel, some sayhaving been set lire by an incendiary. It spread over the lower part of the city, front near the Ouchita and Central avenue junction southwards. So far as the health-resort feature of the city was concerned, that was hardly impaired, and after the lire had been extinguished there was ample accommodation for all in the city. As has been said, the fire originated about 3.30 a. m. in the Grand Central hotel a large, rambling, threestory frame hotel which has long been a menace. Across a narrow street from this place was the Plateau hotel, much larger and five stories of frame—a place which has for many years been the nightmare of the tire department 1 he flames gained enormous headway before the alarm came in, and the wind blowing almost a gale to the south handicapped the department badly. Burning brands were being carried hundreds of feet, and the entire closely built area within two blocks of the Grand Central was blazing in a hundred spots at once. The buildings were for the most part frame, and those that were of brick were in no way fireproof. The entire equipment of the city, with all extra hose, was soon at work, but the fire, fanned by the gale of wind, made such rapid progress that section after section of hose was destroyed, in spite of every effort. The lire equipment of the city consists of four wagons, hose and combination, the pressure being dependent on the reservoir. The supply of water never failed; but the great number of taps in use reduced the pressure to almost nothing. This difficulty was increased from the fact that several fireplugs were broken and free vent given from the water mains in the burned district. Efforts were made by the department to dynamite frame buildings ahead of the fire and thus limit the fire ravages; but these proved futile in most instances, and the buildings had practically to be torn clown by hand where the fire was stopped in this manner. The department brought into play every available section of hose in the city, and as many as fifteen streams were playing in a wide circle at one time, and several stops were made so good as to seem almost miraculous to look upon, the buildings saved being absolutely at the edge of the fire. Just north of where the fire started and on Central avenue is the beguiling of the main business portion of the city. At the beginning of the long fight seven streams of water were placed in play here to prevent the possible spread of the fire there, and a hard fight lasting until after 7 o’clock that morning had to be maintained to gain this victory, which meant the saving of the city proper. This light was made difficult from the fact that the awful heat of the fire seemed to create a countercurrent of air, which vented its fury in whirlwinds, carrying vast numbers of burning brands in the most unexpected directions. The department here had the advantage of two fairly clear and solid brick walls, and by shortly after 9 o’clock felt safe in this direction. The water was required in constant play, however, in this end of the district for the next two days. It is with the greatest satisfaction that the water never gave out, in spite of the awful strain, and the level in the great reservoir np among the mountains was never low enough to endanger the supply. This is especially noticeable, in view of the fact that a fire of considerable magnitude had been effectually stopped in the very heart of the city the morning before. This fire started in the dry goods store of Simon Mendel, and was not discovered until the entire building was gutted, and the flames were leaping from the top and both ends of the building. They were not permitted, however, to spread beyond the original limits. Six streams of water used. Hot Springs has suffered an awful loss, and has undergone a terrible ordeal, but there seems to he one great lesson to he drawn for the future from the conflagration—namely, to guard against the danger always known to result from great piles of frame in closely built districts. The tremendous headway the fire had gained almost as soon as it was kindled, together with the strong wind developed almost instantaneously a fierce blaze that had to vent upon the city the most of its destructive fury, regardless of almost any equipment that could .have been brought against it. The fire department had the support of the citizens in the belief that everything possible was done, and that only the most heroic efforts brought this awful conflagration under control after seven hours’ lighting, at 11 o’clock on that memorable morning. ‘fhe equipment of the fire department, whose force comprises Chief Roy Reading and sixteen men paid full time, quartered in two stations, consists of a combination hose and chemical wagon, three hose wagons, each carrying 1,000 feet of hose and extensions ladders, ten three-gallon Stemple extinguishers, a hand hose reel and a fifty-two-gallon tank chemical engine run by hand. The water pressure is direct and is from eighty to 140 pounds. One hundred and three doubletap fireplugs are set within connecting distance throughout the fire limits. Hot Springs is a city with a normal population of some 12,000 inhabitants and a fire area of five square miles. Owing, however, to the high reputation it bears as a health resort—through its hot springs and medicinal waters, to say nothing of its being a great racing and sporting centre, the transient visitors who fill up its great hotels and boardinghouses swell the number of people utilising its resources to 50,000 in tne season. The city is beautifully situated in the midst of mountainous scenery. In the residential portion of the city the houses are frame and built very closely to each other. Nearly all the large hotels and apartment houses, however, are situated in what is looked upon as the business portion of the city. They, also, are of frame, “so that (writes a correspondent) the congestion caused by the close propinquity of so many wooden structures constitutes a perpetual menace to the public safety, owing to the possibilities of lire breaking out in their midst and sweeping every way with such violence as to defy even the most powerful and the best equipped fire department in the world to -ave life and property. Hence, it is no wonder that, with only such a small firefighting force and such meagre equipment as Chief Reading had at his disposal, the conflagration swept over one-fifth of the tire area, and caused such terrible loss. That the whole city was not wiped out is what should cause astonishment. With flimsily constructed, wooden buildings and a population of practically 50,000 the only protection provided was the pressure front plugs, not a single steamer being in commission. The equipment was such as is to be looked for only in a town of 5.000 inhabitants. Just think of it! Whoever are the responsible heads of the city government ought to be indicted for such negligence. No chief, as a rule, cares to force the purchase of proper apparatus, and frequently his reconunendations are ignored by the ignorant members of the council. Such may have been the case in I lot Springs, and, if so, the jury ought to bring in a verdict against these people for the loss of life and property caused by their carelessness. At least 20,020 feet of hose, four first-class steamers, a water tower of the Hart pattern and two chemical combination wagons ought to be added to the department without delay. Chief Reading should have had between sixty and seventy paid men to fight such a fire, and it is just such places as this that make the existence of the twenty travelers of the National Board of Underwriters possible. A neighboring city. Fort Smith, with one-half the population, has one steamer, an aerial truck, four hose wagons a combination hose and chemical wagon and 30,000 feet of hose. and. while the apparatus in this case is not sufficient to stay a lire of moderate size, it is certainly an improvement upon the Hot Springs equipment.”
A gasolene stove exploding in an Alvarado. Cal., saloon destroyed the building and caused tlie public hall and three stores to be burned, the loss being $25,000. Alvarado has no fire protection.