Four Alarm Blazn Follows Smaller One in Pittsburgh, Pa., High Value District and Keeps Firemen on Jump—week’s Burnings

TWO fires breaking out at the same time for which alarms reached the fire department just one minute apart, one of them the most destructive and spectacular fires that have occurred within Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle (the downtown business district) for many months, kept twentyseven fire companies busy for several hours subduing the two fires early Monday morning, January 5th, and caused a total loss of over $500,000. The two fires were only about eight squares apart. The first alarm came in at 5:26 a. m., from Station 85, Fifth Ave. and Hooper St., for a fire in a four-story brick building (cause unknown) located at 820 Fifth Ave. in the thickly populated and congested Jewish wholesale and retail business district, occupied by the Wearfine Clothing Company as a sweatshop and storeroom, which caused damage estimated at $40,000.

Map Showing Layout of Fire in 7-Story Robbins Building, Pittsburgh, by Wm. E. Patterson

Engine companies No. 2, 3, 4 and 30 and Truck Co. No. 3 answering the first alarm in command of First Battalion Chief Richard L. Smith handled this fire, no second alarm being necessary. Upon their arrival the fire was discovered raging on the second floor, which fed by an inflammable stock, quickly spread towards the rear of the building, up the elevator shaft to the third and fourth floors before being brought under control by the firemen. The following fire apparatus was in service at this fire:

Three American-La France combination hose and chemical wagons. One American-La France combination hose and turret wagon. One 1,100-gal. Amoskeag steam fire engine, drawn by a Christie two-wheel front drive tractor. One 900-gal. Amoskeag steam fire engine, drawn by a Christie two-wheel front drive tractor and one 85-foot Seagrave aerial, drawn by an American-LaFrance four-wheel tractor.

Two hundred and fifty feet of 3-inch hose. 2,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and 250 feet of 1-inch lead line hose, all cotton rubber lined were in use at the fire. Three engine streams and two hydrant streams and 170 feet of ladders. Fortyfour men including seven commanding officers of fire companies and one battalion chief were on duty at the fire. The duration of this fire was two hours and twenty-five minutes.

While the firemen were engaged combating this fire, other fire companies were rushing by on adjoining streets in response to four alarms front Station 28 for a fierce fire (cause unknown) in a seven-story brick mercantile building located at 627 and 629 Penn Ave., in the congested retail, hotel and theater section.

Upon arrival of the first alarm fire companies, Eng. Cos. 1, 18, 19, 32, 33 and Truck Cos. No. 1 and 46 in command of Acting Battalion Chief William C. Boyd, of the Fifth Battalion, clouds of smoke were found rolling out of the fifth story windows on Penn Avenue. By the time the first alarm companies got into service the red glare of the fire began to show up through the windows on the different floors. Truck Co. No. 1 had extended their 75-foot aerial ladder to the fifth floor, intending to take lines up the ladder to the fifth floor, but before they could accomplish their purpose they had to hurry and lower their ladder and move the truck to a place of safety when the flames burst out suddenly, from all of the front windows of the seven-story building, the heat on Penn Ave. becoming so intense in a short time that it began to crack windows across the street and flying sparks and fire brands were setting fire to awnings in the neighborhood.

At 5:41 A. M. Acting Battalion Chief William C. Boyd sent in the three-twos (2-2-2) which called all the companies designated to answer the second and third alarms from Station 28, the second alarm companies being Engine Cos. No. 46, 47, 5, 11 and Truck Co. 12 and the third alarm companies Engine Cos. 42, 7, 12, 25 and Truck Co. 25 in command of Second Battalion Chief Frank Harris, as well as Chief M. F. Shanahan.

Immediately upon his arrival at the fire. Chief Shanahan ordered the fourth alarm sent in which brought Engine Cos. 10, 24, 8 and 14 to the scene as well as First Battalion Chief Richard L. Smith who came to the fire from the first fire at Station 85 at which he was in command making 17 engine companies and 4 truck companies in service at the fire. Station 85 coming in just one minute before Station 28 took all the companies but one that were designated on the assignment card to answer the second alarm at Station 28, both of the fires being in the first battalion which required all the companies assigned to answer the third and fourth alarms at Station 28 to move up and fill in as the second and third alarm companies and four companies that had transferred to other quarters to fill in as the fourth alarm companies. The fire was fought from Penn Ave. and the roofs of the Michigan Furniture Warehouse, the Arrott Power Building and the Pitt Theater building.

Fire in 7-Story Robbins Building, Pittsburgh A Section of the Right Hand Wall Afterward Fell and Crushed Smaller Werner Building Below. Part of the Pitt Theatre Is to Be Seen in the Extreme Right Hand Corner of Picture

The destroyed building fronted 50 teet on Penn Ave. and extended back 125 feet to a narrow private ally and was close to 100 feet high, the seven stories being extra high. The building was erected over twenty years ago and was of brick construction, with wooden joists and floors, supported on cast iron columns and with ceilings of highly finished yellow pine. The building lacked a sprinkler system or other private fire protection and was without the services of a watchman.

The first five floors and the basement of the building occupied by I. Robbins and Sons contained a large stock of general merchandise and the two top floors a large stock of high class furniture owned by the Michigan Furniture Company’ all of which made good fuel for the flames.

The deluge combination water tower and turret wagon of Engine Co. No. 1 rendered very effective and most efficient service at this fire as it has done at former fires, delivering three powerful high pressure streams in the front of the building from the twentv-four-foot water tower and the two turret nozzles, an 1 3/4 tip being used on the lower nozzle and a 1 7/16 tip being used on each of the turret nozzles, pressure being furnished through seven lines of hose connected to the wagon, three front the 1.000 gallon Ahrens-Fox gasoline pumper (Eng. 19) two lines from a 1.100 gallon Metropolitan steam fire engine (Eng. 1) and two lines siantesed into one from a 700-gallon Metropolitan steam fire engine (Eng. 8).

In addition to the above the Hale combination hose and turret wagon of Engine Co. 32 was also in the front of the building delivering a powerful turret stream with an l 1/2 tip on the nozzle, pressure being furnished through four lines of hose connected to two 750 gallon American-LaFrance gasoline pumpers and two 700 gallon Amoskeag steam fire engines.

For a time it was feared that the flames which were rolling out of the windows of the burning building on Penn Ave. and wrapping around the row of windows of the Michigan Furniture warehouse would work their way into the different floors of the furniture warehouse which were all loaded with a heavy stock of furniture but the effective work done hv the powerful streams from the two turret wagons which were centered on this part of the burning structure gradually drove the flames back and saved the furniture warehouse from destruction.

In controlling and extinguishing the fire, twenty-five engine and pumper streams and four hydrant streams were used. 1.050 feet of 3-itich hose, 13,000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and 250 feet of 1-inch lead line hose, all cotton rubber lined, two Babcock fire extinguishers and 341 feet of ladders. The following types of fire apparatus consisting of thirty-one pieces all motor driven and tractor drawn were in service at the fire.

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One combination deluge, hose, water tower and turret wagon, drawn by an American-LaFrance two-wheel tractor. One Hale combination hose and turret wagon equipped with a turret nozzle with connections for three lines of hose and a rail pipe with a two-way Siamese connection attached. Light American-LaJFrance combination lyose and chemical cars. One Ahrens-Fox 1,000-gallon triple combination gasoline pumper. One American-LaFrance 1,000-gallon triple combination pumper. Five American-LaFrance 750-gallon triple combination pumpers. One 1,100-gallon Metropolitan steam fire engine drawn by an American-La France two-wheel tractor. Two 900-gallon Metropolitan steam fire engines drawn by American-LaFrance two-wheel tractors. Three 700-gallon Metropolitan steam fire engines drawn by American-LaFrance two wheel tractors. One 700-gallon Amoskeag steam fire engine drawn by an American-LaFrance two-wheel tractor. One 700-gallon Amoskeag steam fire engine drawn by a Christie two-wheel front drive tractor. One 900-gallon Amoskeag steam fire engine drawn by a Christie two-wheel front drive tractor. One 1,500-gallon Amoskeag steam fire engine drawn by a Christie two-wheel front drive tractor. One 85-foot Seagrave aerial drawn by an American-LaFrance four wheel tractor, and three 75-foot American-LaFrance aerials all drawn by American-LaFrance fourwheel tractors.

One hundred uniformed firemen were on duty at the fire consisting of the chief, deputy chief, three battalion chiefs, two acting battalion chiefs, seventeen captains and senior lieutenants in command of engine companies and four junior lieutenants in command of aerial truck companies, seven pumpmen, ten enginemen, ten assistant enginemen and fiftyfive hosemen and laddernten.

Plenty of single and double opening fire hydrants all of the Ludlow type all of which are installed within a short distance of one another and fed from water mains of large volume and pressure furnished the firemen all the water they desired, to handle the fire.

The pressure on all fire hydrants in down town high value business districts runs from 90 to 100 pounds.

The duration of the fire was twelve hours and thirty-six minutes, being struck out at 6:03 p. m., by First Battalion Chief Richard Smith.

On Wednesday morning, January 7, about 10 a. m. two days after the fire the two side walls of the burned Robbins building fell on top of the four-story brick building at the corner of Penn Ave. and Scott Place owned and occupied by Oswald Werner as a cleaning and dyeing establishment which adjoined the burned building on the east, crushing the rear end of the Werner Building, carrying a large section of the roof and floors through to the basement as well as piling up Scott Place with an avalanche of brick and tearing down a portion of the fire escape from the side wall of the Pitt Theater building on the opposite side of Scott Place.

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