Inmates Help to Fight State Prison Fire
Maine State Prison Destroyed—Bravery Shown by Prisoners—New Britain Firemen Help Plainville Department—Burnings of the Week
PRISONERS working side by side with firemen and officials of the prison was a feature of the fire which destroyed eight buildings of the Maine State prison at Thomaston, Me., on September 15. The fire, the origin of which was unknown. was discovered by a guard on duty in the western post of the prison at 4:15 p. m. He at once gave the prison alarm and telephoned an alarm also to the fire department of Thomaston. Chief S. J. Crawford responded with sixty men and one pumper, one combination car, two ladder trucks and five hose companies. There were four 6-inch hydrants outside and two inside the prison wall, about 500 feet apart, with a rated pressure of 80 pounds, but which, according to Chief Crawford, fell far short of this pressure in the actual fighting of the fire. There was a lack of pressure in the hydrants within the walls, greatly hampering the firemen and other fire-fighters. There were 4,000 feet of hose laid to fight the fire and of this from 400 to 500 feet were burned before the firemen could remove it from the rush of the flames. The fire broke out just before the supper hour, from, it is assumed, a sulphur kettle under one of the broom shops, used for drying the materials from which the brooms were made. In this building were stored a great amount of extremely inflammable material, which gave the fire a very great start before it was discovered. The other buildings caught fire with great rapidity and by the time the fire department arrived, all of these buildings were involved.
Assistance was asked for from the Rockland fire department and apparatus was sent to assist in fighting the fire. The 304th and 305th Coast Artillery companies, stationed respectively at Thomaston and Rockland, also rendered help. Members of the fire brigade of the prison composed of prisoners, brought their hose wagon into service and worked with great bravery beside the guards and firemen in fighting the fire. One of the buildings housed from 140 to 205 prisoners, and this was destroyed. Besides this, the two broom shops, workhouse, paint shop, wood shop, blacksmith shop and harness shop, all brick buildings of large size and well stocked with materials and equipment, were destroyed. The west wing, which was one of the oldest of the structures of the prison, still in use, was burned. The new wing, built about five years ago, of stone and brick, was saved, and a large stone and brick building used as a dining room, kitchen and laundry, was also prevented from burning. The warden’s residence, just beyond the front wall of the prison, and the several tenements surrounding the prison wall, were saved by the fire department, which made special efforts in this direction, as these buildings were badly threatened. The loss on the buildings was estimated at $500,000, and on the contents, brooms, paints, wood work and blacksmith materials, the loss was about $30,000.