Five Alarms Turned for Fire That Started from Acetylene Cutting Torches—Chief Richard L. Smith in Charge of Companies

SEVEN firemen were injured, street car and vehicle traffic in East Ohio Street was paralized for several hours and freight and passenger trains on the Western Pennsylvania Division of the Pennsylvania Lines were temporarily delayed when a spectacular five-alarm daylight fire, caused by the carelessness of workmen, broke out and swept through a large warehouse of the National Lead and Oil Company’s extensive plant, located at North Side, a large manufacturing center of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Fire was caused by two workmen employed by the Solomon Company, house wreckers, who were working in the building dismantling some old paint and oil storage tanks with acetylene torches. A spark from one of the torches ignited the oil and paint soaked wooden floor of the large structure.

An attempt was made by the workmen to extinguish the fire with hand extinguishers and pails of water, but the flames spread so quickly, that they were forced to give up and free from the burning building.

Five alarms were sounded, calling fifteen engine companies, three truck companies, the Chief of Department, one Deputy Chief and three Battalion Chiefs, with twenty-one pieces of motor fire apparatus.

The first alarm for the fire was sounded by an employee of the lead and oil company at 11:53 a.m., from a box located directly in front of the burning building. Engine Companies No. 2, 42 and 48 and Truck Company No. 46, answered the first alarm.

When the first alarm companies arrived, firemen found smoke issuing from the entire building. Dense clouds of acrid smoke drove the firemen back, making their efforts impossible as they attempted to enter the building to reach the seat of the fire and to ventilate the structure.

A second alarm was sent at 12:08 p.m., which brought Engine Companies No. 46, 49 and 51 and Truck Company No. 51 in command of Deputy Chief Frank G. Jones, and Chief Richard L. Smith.

As the fire continued to gain headway throughout the burning structure, the second alarm was followed by the third at 12:28 p.m., the fourth at 12:50 p.m., and the fifth at 12:54 p.m., bringing nine additional Engine Companies and one truck company to the fire; Engine Companies No. 18, 41 and 43 in command of Battalion Chief Martin J. Loebig of the Seventh Battalion; Engine Companies No. 44, 47 and 50 and Truck Company No. 50 and Engine Companies No. 7, 33 and 53 in command of Battalion Chief William H. Davis of the Third Battalion.

Eighteen Pumper Streams Used on Fire

Eighteen powerful pumper streams were directed into the burning structure from the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad on the north, the large storage yard on the east and from adjoining buildings of the Lead and Oil Company. Ten lines were laid into the fire from East Ohio Street and eight from River Avenue, pressure being furnished by fourteen pumpers. Eleven thousand feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, were used with 1 1/8 and 1 1/4-inch nozzles.

Firemen, under the direction of Chief Smith, confined their efforts almost entirely in keeping the fire from spreading to the main building of the plant, a large four story brick structure.

After several hours, the burning roof collapsed, and the flames shot fifty feet into the air.

Several tanks of thermolene gas, being used by the house wrecking company, ignited and caused flares of blue flames to shoot up during the early progress of the fire.

Seven Firemen Slightly Injured

Seven firemen, including Deputy Chief Jones, received minor cuts and injuries from falling glass, and were given first aid treatment by Daniel E. Sable, Police and Fire Surgeon.

The upper River Avenue manufacturing and warehouse district, located almost at the city line on the east, is a rather isolated section of the North Side.

No fire company quarters are located east of the fire zone. All fire companies which responded to the five alarms, approached the fire from the west, via. East Ohio Street to Heinz Street.

In order to get enough fire companies on the upper side of the fire. Chief Officers in command, were compelled to send their Aides back to Heinz Street to direct these Companies to proceed out East Ohio Street beyond the fire to the ramp at the Herrs Island bridge and to River Avenue and the fire.

The burned structure, which set back approximately onehundred feet from River Avenue, was a four-story brick and wooden joisted structure of slow burning mill construction, with heavy wooden floors and supporting columns. It fronted eighty feet towards River Avenue and extended back onehundred feet to the elevated railroad structure.

Two Views of the National Lead and Oil Company Warehouse Fire in Pittsburgh

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