ICE HOUSE FIRES.
In speaking of a recent ice house fire at Newton, Mass., the “Boston Herald” in a recent issue said; “Yesterday’s fire at Newton, closely following similiar losses at Providence and Lexington, brings fresh evidence that ice houses, despite their damp contents and their simple structure, have a high place among special fire risks. No kind of building is such a paradox. Apparently an ice house is as safe against fire as a pump log or a mud scow; yet give the flames but half a chance and nine times in ten they work a total loss. Under ordinary conditions an ice house fire starts easily. The walls rise without masonary direct from the ground; grass fires and brush fires creep into contact with the bare wood. Dry straw and hay lie all about. Damp sawdust within often takes fire of itself. Tramps, never over-careful in their smoking, seek shelter in the buildings. The saw-tooth roofs could not he better planned to catch sparks from passing trains. And when the fire has started, it is uncommonly hard to master. In most cases it gets an overpowering headway before the fighters can assemble. Hydrants are often lacking. If the buildings arc full of ice and the covering straw, the firemen can work only from the outside; if the buildings are empty, the great spaces give the flames both draught and sweep. And the walls, by their peculiar construction, double or triple with twelve or eighteen-inch spaces between, packed with tan bark or other combustible filling, usually baffle al attempts at reaching and extinguishing the well-fed fire within them. The ice houses that burned in Newton had been on fire five or six times before. When the breeze took flaming embers from the fire at Crystal Lake and lodged them on tindery shingles and in dusty eavestroughs for a quarter of a mile to leeward, Newton saw in a single hour twelve gleaming arguments against inflammable roofing. Had the wind blown a little more briskly or had auxiliary apparatus not already rushed in from adjoining towns, the complete destruction of a dozen dwellings would have taught the city a sharper lesson. And yet there are energetic citizens in Newton who recently have wanted to see the local building laws made more favorable still to fire risk. It is hard to understand how intelligent men, mindful of Chelsea and Salem, and of warnings closer at hand, can wish to trim a few dollars from the cost of a house by jeopardizing the valuation of half a city.”