Lacked Enough Pumpers to Handle Big Fire
Chief of Yorkton, Sask., in Report of Business-Block Blaze, Calls Attention to Need for This Type of Apparatus— Two Outbreaks of Fire—Record of the Week’s Burnings
Need of Pumpers in Yorkton Block Fire
In a report to the city council by Chief T. Jenkins of the Yorkton, Sask., Can., fire department, in which he describes the fire on January 14 in the GibsonAppleton Block, in the main business section of the town, he emphasized the fact that had the department been equipped with enough pumpers, they would have been able to cope with the fire more successfully.
The department has 15 men the chief being the only paid member. The building was 50 by 90 feet, of brick and joist, the outside fire walls being of brick and the inside of lath and plaster. It had been built about 15 years. The apparatus in service consisted of one Ford chemical car, equipped with two 25gallon tanks and a Studebaker 60-horsepower hose car. Two 6-inch hydrants were available, 300 feet apart, with 50 pounds pressure. Five hydrant streams were thrown, with nozzles of 1 and l 1/4 inch.
Of the 3,000 feet of hose laid, one length burst and one was burned. Two American-LaFrance smoke helmets were employed. The value of the building was $55,000, with a loss of $25,950, and of the contents, $75,900, with a loss of $43,240. The illustrations show two views of the ruins and the fire department in front of headquarters. For the following complete report we are indebted to Chief Jenkins:
A fire call was received about 2:15 p. m. Saturday, January 14. from Smith & McKay confectionery store that fire was Coming up from the basement. The alarm was at once sounded and the chemical truck left the hall immediately and had a chemical line playing on the scene of the fire in the store in a few minutes. The origin of the fire was in the basement somewhere around the furnace but owing to the heavy smoke and the flames it was impossible to get into the basement with the lines of hose. Four lines were at once run out, and they were all playing water in a few minutes. The fire was held in check and confined to the basement but was not under control till 4:30 p. m. The lire was still in the basement but had crept through the dividing wall into the Princess Cafe basement. The stock in both stores was ruined with water but the fire was kept under control during this whole period. As soon as it was possible to get a line or two working in the basement the original lire was extinguished and proclaimed all out somewhere around 5:30 p. m. I he brigade used in this first call about 1,500 feet of hose and one tank of chemical, 25 gallons.
Three men were left in charge to watch for further outbreaks while the rest of the brigade was in the hall getting the apparatus ready for another call. Another 1,000 feet of hose was put on the truck and the chemical thawed out and recharged and some of the brigade had gone back to their employ. At 9:50 p. m. one of the men stationed on duty turned in the alarm that fire had again broken out and this time it was burning more fiercely than ever and the flames were visible.
Prior to this second outbreak several members of the department had accompanied me through the upper story of the buildings to ascertain if there was any chance of further outbreak but discovered none. However, I still left the three watchmen there and had arranged for them to stay there till morning. Two lines had been left there to cope with any second outbreak and all precautions had been made for the safeguarding of the adjacent buildings. It was necessary to lay another three lengths for the second blaze which was not under control till around 2:30 a. m., after which half of the brigade was relieved and the other half stayed on duty. Occasional outbreaks occurred through the early morning and in fact these kept up till 10 a. m. Sunday morning and again Monday afternoon. The apparatus was taken in at noon and the equipment again made ready for another call.
Around midnight the whole of the floor of the upstairs and the roof fell in making a complete wreck of the whole Gibson Block, but the floor of the Palace of Sweets remained in position although the store was a complete wreck, the floor having burnt through and the contents of the store fallen in. I have not had time to ascertain the exact loss to the property owners as the adjusters are still working at the loss. Two firemen were injured, one by a fall from a ladder and another from some particles of steel in the ankle necessitating several stitches. Several members of the brigade are suffering from frost bites and from exposure. On an average the members were on duty for 5 hours, some continuously and some after relief. The water reservoir contained 8 feet, 11 inches at the outset and when the fire was through still contained 5 feet, 4 inches. We used thoroughly 185,000 gallons of water, the pressure maintained being on an average of 60 pounds at the pumping station. At times we had as many as five streams going at once and of course this reduced the nozzle pressure considerably. We were handicapped at one stage of the fire by the blowing off of a hydrant top making it necessary to transfer the three lines which were coming from that hydrant to another hydrant at the corner of Second and Broadway, and one length of hose burst which meant a shut down for a few minutes.
This is not the time to talk of pumpers, etc., but would like to make clear to the council that this fire is what I would call a “Down Town Fire,” in any city, at which there would be at least 6 or 7 companies with as many pumping engines and perhaps about 80 paid firemen, trained in the handling of their apparatus. However, the buildings on either side of the Gibson-Appleton Block were not damaged by fire at all and when one considers that the Carson Block is only frame covered with metal siding, one wonders at the entire block being intact right now.
Credit is due to the water works department for maintaining pressure for the many hours which they did and once again the 400,000 gallon reservoir has proved its worth but should this fire have happened a month earlier, when the reservoir was practically empty, the destruction of this entire block would have been almost certain. I would like to point out the great devotion to duty under adverse conditions shown by members of the fire brigade, who after all are devoting their services voluntarily.
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