Chiefs from Every Section of this Country and Canada Describe Their Most Difficult Instance of Fire Fighting—Methods Employed and Problems Met Bravery and Endurance of the Men Emphasized

SOME Weeks ago the Editorial Department of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING sent out a request to the members of the International Association of Fire Engineers to send us an account of the “Hardest Fought Fire” that had occurred in their experience as chiefs of their respective departments. The response has been both gratifying and interesting, and the series of replies are given in the pages which follow:

During my career of 26 years of fire fighting, the “Black Tom” fire and explosion was the biggest proposition, and without exception the greatest in the country to contend with under very unfavorable circumstances, which took place July 30, 1916. Black Tom being located in a peninsular section of the city, had its own pumping station to protect the warehouses along the water front, with but few fire hydrants belonging to the city in this isolated section, which is practically controlled by the Central R. R. of New Jersey. Responding to the above fire with three engines and two truck companies, we were doing good work up to the time of the first explosion, which blew up the water mains and pumping stations, rendering the pumps and engines useless, and rendered unconscious five of my men, who had to be removed to the hospital. Under this unfavorable handicap I was compelled to call on Chief Kenlon, of the New York City Fire Department, for assistance, and requested him to send a few fire boats, which he did, and they rendered valuable assistance at the peril of their own lives midst bursting shells. According to the Board of Underwriters the loss caused through this fire and explosion amounted to $12,000,000.—Roger Boyle, Chief, Jersey City, N. J.

Your inquiry on “my hardest fought fire” takes me back to the early morning of January 3, 1916, or rather a few minutes before midnight of January 2 of the same year, for it was at that time Waterbury suffered one of its most serious and thrilling fires, although, of course, the property damage was much less than the famous big fire of this city of 1902. On the date mentioned the Connecticut Hotel, a five-story brick structure, caught fire in the basement, wasn’t discovered until the flames had shot up the elevator shaft and out of the windows of the building, and trapped 40 or 50 occupants, a number of whom were elderly people and unable with so much smoke to properly care for themselves. At the time I lived in the neighborhood of the fire, only a few doors west of the hotel, and was therefore practically at the scene at the time the alarm was given. When I awoke I heard a great commotion in the street, looked out of my window, and then saw flames belching from the top of the building, with people in the upper floors crying to be saved. The night was bitter cold and a stiff wind carried showers of sparks over to the roofs of the business buildings nearby, but fortunately there had been a snow storm and the sparks caused no other fires. To the east of the building was a ten-foot driveway, while the street on which the hotel was located was about 30 feet in width. This department had four auto pumpers and one steamer, which were put at work without delay, and efforts made to drown out the blaze. We spread out life nets and had people jump into them, while our old-fashioned 75-foot aerial ladder was being raised. Yet in spite of its 25 years of service this truck proved its worth, for after all we were able, after a brief delay, to reach all of the people and carry them to the ground, although a few jumped and were badly injured, while one man died as a result of being overcome by the smoke. We then had a small working force, about 75 members, and each man did his work well. You know it was one of those fires a department head always feels is going to occur when he hasn’t got the proper equipment for such a conflagration, for in a sense it was a conflagration. I had been advocating the purchase of an 85-foot motor automatic hoist aerial truck, and while it has since arrived it would certainly have been a handy piece of apparatus that night. I firmly believe the fire in question was without doubt the hardest and toughest job I have had since I joined the department 26 years ago; first, because as the head of the department the responsibility for its successful handling was upon me, my first big fire since my advancement to the position of chief, and secondly, because of the number of people who were trapped and who had to be rescued and carried to the street. While the building itself was practically destroyed and one life was lost, I have always considered the department fortunate in that more lives were not lost and more property damaged. Of course, there was some talk that the department was slow in the raising of its ladders. That 1 admit, but it was because of the type of truck we had to contend with. But while this work was going on we had our nets out saving people, and we had ten lines on the burning building in very quick time. Whenever fire kills or threatens to kill there is always the cry of slowness on the part of the fire department. There is no space of time in a man’s life so long as those eternities while he waits for the firemen to come. But fortunately at this fire I saw for myself, for I was up with the stroke of the first bell, and, living so close by, I was at the fire proper in the course of a few minutes after the alarm came.—H. H. Heitman, Chief, IVaterbury, Conn.

My hardest fought fire was as follows: On April 8, 1919, we received a telephone call at 7.36 P. M. that there was a fire at Curtis Brothers’ planing mill and lumber yard, and I responded with chemical and hose companies Nos. 2 and 4 and truck No. 2. Upon arriving I immediately took in the situation and ordered a second alarm turned in at 7.40 P. M., which brought engine company No. 1, chemical and hose company No. 5, and truck No. 1. The Curtis plant is located in East Orange, about 100 feet from the Newark line, and some one had sent in an alarm to the Newark department, which brought Chief Moore, Battalion Chief Donahue, with engines Nos, 7, 11, 15, 22, and truck No. 7, and they immediately went to work and gave me valuable assistance. The Curtis plant was situated in the center, surrounded by a number of frame buildings on three sides and brick car barns on the other side, but aside from a few roofs that started from the flying embers the fire was confined to the Curtis plant after 15 hours’ hard fighting. The back taps was not sent in until 10 o’clock the next day, April 9, but I kept a detail of firemen wetting down all day of the 9th putting out the smoldering embers. The water pressure registered 90 lbs. on the gauge all during the fire. We had sixteen streams playing on the fire, of which Newark had six engine lines and East Orange had eight hydrant lines and two lines from our pumping engine. Our engine is a motor-driven triple combination pumping engine 750 gallons and it pumped for nine and a ha! f hours continuously without a stop. The water mains are 12, 8 and 6 inches and the hydrants used were two 4-way off 12-inch main and two 2-way hydrants off 6-inch and 8-inch mains. East Orange had 42 firemen working at the fire and we used 4,500 feet of two and a half inch cotton covered rubber lined hose, and the damage amounted to $60.000.—George L. Mitchell, Chief, East Orange, N. J.

My hardest fought fire was an attic fire in a dwelling in which access to that part of the building was only through the inside. The attic, having no openings, was filled with dense, suffocatin’ smoke, through which the “boys” of my department bravely crawled on their stomachs, as it was impossible to stand up and breathe at all, and fought the fire with water pressure, saving the building with the exception of the roof. This fire was fought in extremely cold weather, freezing the water soon after it left the nozzle.—Henry J. Gautschy, Chief, Hawthorne Boro.

I will start by saying that every dog has his day, and I suppose that this rule applies to the fire chiefs. What is far more disconcerting, I suppose I have had my day in the sense that I can never expect to be any better than I now am, if, indeed, I am quite : s good as I was a few years back. Records don’t tell all the story, and yet records can’t be ignored. As 1 look through the record i, I find that I have served 38 years in the Bloomington fire servic twenty-four years as chief. My hardest fought fire was in the basement of the Butler Hotel. The fire started in a storage ice bo c located in the center of the building. Two Baker cellar pipes ai. several hose lines were pouring tons of water in the basemen Finally the fire broke out on the north side of the room, abothe center of the building, which was 112×80 feet. In directin the men handling cellar pipe to the proper location, the floor lapsed, and I dropped into the basement in which were over fi feet of water. The sudden reaction on the system and long tin it took to find the stairway so I could get out caused pneumoni I was blind for six days and lost my speech, which did not con back for three months. In fact, it left me in a weakened cond tion from which I have not fully recovered. This was my hardest fought fire. I had to swim through heavy smoke to the stairway in order to save myself from drowning.—Henry Mayer, Chief, Bloomington, III.

My hardest fought fire occurred on February 12, 1917, in the clothing store of Grafton & Co., in the centre of Hamilton’s mercantile section. The temperature on this night was 12 degrees below zero, and the difficulties of the department were in consequence greatly enhanced. The illustration will give a very good idea of the severe weather conditions we had to contend with. The Grafton store was a three story building, of brick with a felt and gravel roof, and the fire had evidently been burning some time when the alarm was received, as on our arrival the whole building was found to le involved aid the fire was coming through the roof. The fire also communicated to a hardware store adjoining, by means of timbers built into the communicating walls. It also spread to a drygoods store in the rear, owing to a defect in the Grafton building fire wall. In spite of the adverse conditions, we managed to keep the losses in this fire down to $39,000 on buildings and $127,000 on the contents, with valuations respectively of $113,000 and $530,500. We had in service at this fire two steamers, one motor combination chemical and hose car, four horse-drawn combination wagons, three hose wagons, three ladder trucks, and a coal tender, and used 7.100 feet of hose. We had a pressure of 75 pounds at the hydrants, of which there were sixteen, and threw two engine and twelve hydrant streams. The fire burned 10 hours and 30 minutes, and was the most severe we have ever had to contend with. A. B. Ten Fivck. Chief, Hamilton, Ont., Can.

Fire in Grafton Building, Hamilton, Ont., February 12, 1917, with Temperature at 12 Degrees Below Zero

In regard to my hardest fought fire. I would say that while this is the largest small arms factory in the war and we have been engaged in the production of small arms during the past four years, we have not had a serious fire to combat with. It required eternal vigilance on the part of those responsible for the fire protection that we are able to report this fact. Our fire department equipment is at least as good as any similar equipped plant in the world with the addition of a number of special features in general use.— John J. Farmer, Chief, Remington Arms Union Metallic Cartridge Co., Bridgeport, Conn., Works.

The greatest fire Kokomo ever had was July 6, 1913. The wind was from the northwest; this was on a Sunday at 2 P. M. A large elevator was discovered on fire. When the department arrived it was found beyond control; adjoining w’as a freight and passenger station ; across the track was a large flour mill and frame livery stable; across the street on the west was one square of business rooms, from two to three stories; also one frame livery stable. We had three lines of hose on these and saved all except the glass in front parts. During this time fire broke out down in town, many awnings and frame sheds caught, but citizens put them out during the fire. We lost the elevator, flour mill, freight office and part of passenger station; also seven freight cars, five of which were loaded with sugar and furniture. I never found out the value and loss to the railroad, as the matter was settled in the East by the L. E. & W. K. R. The loss to local owners was near $50,000. The mayor called for help from Logansport, Peru and Marion; they all came. Logansport by rail; Peru by motor overland; Marion by traction. Fire was under control when they arrived. Farmers found burned shingles in their yards 5 and 6 miles to the southeast of city; had it not been on a Sunday, when most of the men were at home, the department could not have handled it. When the fire was greatest the overhead wires fell in all directions. Several firemen were cut and burned, but not seriously.—Ed. Shauman, State I ‘ice-President, Chief, Kokomo, lnd.

My hardest fought fire was the Hibbing Hotel building, 100 x 100, three stories and full basement, the main building of wood construction and seventeen years old ; the annex of brick and wood. The first floor was occupied by a dry goods store, millinery shop and jewelry store. The fire raged in some parts of the building for twelve and a half hours. The fire started in hotel kitchen from an overheated range. The department was called at 5.40 A. M. The fire had burned its way to the basement and had traveled up the side walls to the attic when the apparatus arrived. There were sixty people in the hotel at the time, and most of them in bed. Part of my force was detailed to getting people to safety, while the remainder laid their lines and met the fire at the different points where it was most liable to cut off the openings of escape. All the people were taken out in safety, owing to the fact that a large porch ran the full width of the building at the second story and the ability of the firemen to hold the fire back from the inside stairways. Five two-way hydrants and one three-way hydrant were available at a distance of 2$0 feet. Seven hydrant streams were in use with one and one-eighth inch nozzles, two streams were on outside to protect the adjoining building and five streams were kept on the inside to meet the fire on the different floors. At 11 o’clock A. M. after five and a half hours of hard fighting the fire was under control, when one of the water mains burst, leaving us practically out of water for twenty minutes, and the fire got away to start again. At 2 o’clock the firemen began to go blind, their close contact to the fire allowed the water after hitting the fire, which was mostly above them, to fall back hot and dirty into their eyes and faces, causing a very painful inflammation in the eyes. Of the forty men in action, thirty-one had their eyes treated during the fire, and five were sent to the hospital. Our association doctor, G. W. Brooks, was called into service at 2 o’clock, and treated some men’s eyes as much as three times in five hours, making it possible for those men to stay on duty. He located in a drug store some fifty feet from the fire, and to him much credit is due for his emergency work on the men’s eyes during the last five hours of the fight, for he made it possible for those men to stay on duty at the fire. Without such assistance the men would have had togo to the hospital for treatment, and the building would have been lost. As it was, after fighting this fire for twelve hours from basement to attic, loss to main building was 38 per cent., loss tocontents 14 per cent., valuation of building $38,000, and of contents $43,000. Annex damaged only by smoke.—Chas. E. Mclllhargey,. Chief, Hibbing, Minn.

I am at present chief of the Marysville fire department and’ have been for fifteen years; am past president of the Kansas State Association of Fire Chiefs and past president of the Kansas State Firemen’s Association ; have held office in the K. S. F. A. for 16, years, was secretary for five years, and am at present treasurer and chairman of the Legislative Committee ; am the author of what is known as the “Mohrbacher Bill,” now on the statutes of Kansas. (This law provides for a tax levy for the maintenance and equipment of fire departments in Kansas.) I have nothing to offer under the topic of “my hardest fought fire,” as we don’t have that kind in Marysville (knock wood). I am told that I am a crank on fire prevention—perhaps I am. Here’s the fire loss in Marysville tor the past few years: 1912. $1,362; 1913, $85; 1914, $1,200; 1915, $572; 1916. $80; 1917, $821; 1918, $95. We are a little city with about 3,000 population and have an assessed valuation of approximately $3,000,000. You will note that this brings the per capita loss about to the minimum. Kindly consider the above in the spirit in which it is given, as I am not looking for any bouquets or advertising, but thought you might have use for something of this kind.— Geo. T. Mohrbacher, Chief, Marysville, Kan.

My hardest fought fire occurred on March 23, 1916, when 700 buildings were destroyed with a property loss of nearly $2,000,000, and many persons were injured, some fatally. I enclose a newspaper account of the fire, with a map which gives a better idea of the fire than 1 can.—Chief A. A. Rosetta, Nashville, Tenn.


Nearly 700 buildings in the residental section of East Nashville are in ruins, representing a loss of nearly $2,000,000. Approximately 3,000 people are homeless, and many of the city’s most magnificent public and private institutions, churches and schools are burned to the ground. One person is dead, several are said to be fatally injured and many were more or less seriously hurt Wednesday in the fire that swept from the corner of First and Oldham streets fifteen blocks in a southeasterly direction to Lenore street. The flames, which were carried onward before a gale that blew between forty and fifty miles an hour, swept everything before it for a width of two blocks. The fire started at the corner of First and Oldham streets. Investigation of C. W. Schuyler, commissioner of the department of fire prevention, showed last night that the fire started when a negro boy snatched a burning yarn ball from out of a grate and threw it out the door. Dried grass in the yard ignited. The cabin blazed up, and within a few minutes the flames had spread into a pile of shavings in the rear of the planing mill of Seagrave & Co. The sparks and embers from the mill were carried for blocks by the high wind. The flames broke out several squares away. The fire department was helpless in its efforts to stop the flames, and within thirty minutes after the little boy made such a desperate effort to save his toy, Chief Rozetta had his companies make a flank movement, as it were. No further attempt was made to stop the onward rush of the flames. Realizing the impotency of such an effort in the face of a tornado, the veteran chief directed his forces in holding the fire within as narrow a pathway as possible. And for five hours when the wind died down to twentyfive or thirty miles, the department held the fire directly in its course. At 4:30 the last house, a tiny frame house, just across Lenore street, was burned. The most disastrous fire Nashville has ever experienced was out, and the attention of the city was directed to the 3,000 or more homeless people. The city immediately began its campaign to feed and to clothe them, and to find temporary quarters in which they may live. As he watched the fire. Chief Rozetta saw something that caused his head to fly back and every muscle in hjs body became tense. With a leap he was in the driver’s seat of the red car, and he was off up Oldham street. Over on Howerton street, two blocks away. He saw the roof of a house break into flames. Three blocks to the east on Donelson avenue the shingle roofs of several small cottages were burning. Within the time that it took to circle back to Oldham street his campaign had been outlined. He gave his orders to his captains, barely slowing down his automobile as he passed. The front of the fire by that time was four blocks wide—from Third to Seventh streets. Only with heroic work on the part of his men, and with immediate action could the line be narrowed down, maybe two b’oeks, maybe only one. But within fifteen minutes the companies were in their positions assigned by Chief Rozetta and the fight was on to hold the flames within as narrow a pathway as possible. And hold them they did. For fifteen blocks, more than a mile, the width of the fire did not exceed the two blocks. The boundaries of the fire were not fixed by streets, but diagonally across squares, making the work of the firemen the more difficult in their efforts to hold it within a prescribed pathway. After crossing the railroad track the fire swept through a thickly-settled section just east of the railroad tracks, and the entire section was swept compietly away, leaving only charred ruins and brick chimneys standing to represent where many homes once stood. Reaching Main street, the fire began a little west of Fifth street, and swept everything in its track from there to about half way between Sixth and Seventh streets, including the home of the Little Sisters of the Poor, where many aged and infirm were located, and St. Columba’s Catholic church.

Map Showing the Extent of the Great Fire at Nashville, Tenn., on March 23, 1916, wh ch Destroyed Nearly $2,000,000 Worth of Property.

Thinking the matter over, there are several fires which have given more or less trouble to confine them to the building in which they originated. I think, however, that a fire we had in February, 1914, was about as bad a condition as could well be found. The fire was in a four-story brick building, No. 316 to 324 Broadway. There were about three feet of snow on the level, with the thermometer at 14 degrees below zero. It was near midnight when the alarm came in from Station 82. The building was occupied by the Chicago Creamery Company and was burning from bottom to top when the apparatus arrived. There was great difficulty in getting an engine near the hydrant, as the snow was drifted in piles at least six feet high. The streets on two sides of the fire were narrow, which conditions made it very dangerous, as the fire was apt to cross the street; but luck was with us, as it did not. Our hose would sink down under the snow and freeze there, so when it became necessary to change a position we had to add another piece of hose. On account of the great banks of snow it was impossible to get a ladder truck near enough to throw up our aerial ladders. We lost six hundred feet of hose, which was buried under the snow and frozen in. There was a mound of ice from a loft door on the second story which we could come out on in the morning. The fire was not so different from any other fire, but the weather conditions certainly were. In addition to the creamery fire, there was another fire in the south end of the city. There were two stores involved in this second fire, and as about our entire department was engaged at the creamery, the second fire had a good start, and right on top of this came what is known as the Mcdwin fire (a ladies’ wearing apparel store on South Pearl and Market Streets). These three fires were about as one, as they were all under way at the same time.—IV. IV. Bridgeford, Chief, Albany, N. Y.

The most disastrous fire 1 have had to contend with during my experience was the destruction of the city of Hopewell, Virginia, on the 9th day of December, 1915. We were handicapped by lack of water and pressure, also fire-fighting equipment. The city was in its infancy at that time, having sprung up near the great Du Pont guncotton plant. The buildings were of cheap, frame construction, with very little regard for fire prevention. The fire started about 2:00 p. m. and soon developed into a conflagration, due to the handicap mentioned above. It was very soon apparent that the town was doomed, and our efforts were directed to preventing its spread to the Du Pont plant, in which we were successful, due to the fact that the Du Pont Company had provided sufficient equipment and water, with pressure, for its protection, assisted by a splendid volunteer and paid fire-fighting force. The town of Hopewell was virtually wiped off the map, entailing a loss of over a million dollars. It was physically impossible to stay the progress of the fire at that time, due to the lack of equipment, mentioned above.—John J. Cuddihx, Chief, Hopewell, l a.

Hopewell, Va., Conflagration, Showing Extent of Destruction.

My most difficult fire occurred on January 19, 1918, during a heavy snow storm. This fire occurred in a university dormitory for girls. The Evanston fire department at the time of this fire was just about to be motorized. We had received two pumpers and tme city service truck and the balance of the department was still horse-drawn. The horse-drawn apparatus had great difficulty in getting to this fire on account of the heavy snow, but the motor engines plowed through two feet of snow and held the fire until the horse drawn apparatus arrived. Without the motor apparatus this fire would surely have gotten away from the department. The building was of ordinary construction and the fire started in the third floor, had eaten its way to the first floor, and was coming out of the roof before the alarm was turned in. The dormitory was occupied by twenty-five girl students, some of whom had to be assisted to the street by the firemen. Two Seagrave pumpers, one Robinson pumper, and one Ahrens steamer and one Seagrave city service truck were used at this fire; four leads of hose were used with one and a quarter and one and an eighth inch nozzles. —A. N. Hofstetter, Fire Marshal, Evanston, III.

As to the story of “my hardest fought fire,” really that is a joke for a “small-town” chief like myself to rush into print with something of that kind that might have occurred in a western town of 3,000 people spread over nearly 800 acres of ground; it would only be laughable to the chiefs from the real towns. Nothing big ever happens in these little western places. While I have been chief of this department for 13 years this month, have never laid off nor been laid off for one single day in that time (of course I have been absent from the city, but my time went on just the same), have drawn a full pay check for each and every month during this time; I have attended eight I. A. F. E. conventions during this time, having been twice (state) vice-president for Oklahoma; I have been treasurer of the National Firemen’s Association two terms ; I have held every office in the Oklahoma State Firemen’s Association from delegate to the convention to president of the association ; and I am now upon my third term as secretarytreasurer of this association, and have represented my state association at several other conventions. I have tried to do my duty as a fireman and have taken a very active part in the fight for better insurance rates in my state, for the “two-platoon” system, for better pay for firemen, am one of the authors of the present Oklahoma Pension Law for Firemen, which is acknowledged as one of the best in the U. S. I am rather proud of my record as chief of my own department, which has been publicly “proclaimed” by the State Insurance Commissioner, Fire Marshal, and Manager of the State Rating Bureau. All of this I “admit,” but still I have nothing to offer on “my hardest fought fire”; that is, not for publication alongside of that of the chiefs of real fire departments in real cities and towns. I am perfectly human and like to see myself alongside of the other chiefs of the country; I like to hear nice things said of me as a fireman or as head of my department, but my “modesty” (?) prevents me from writing for you the history of “my hardest fought fire.”—Chas. Slemp, Chief, Anadarko, Okla.

Early in the evening in the month of October a few years ago an alarm was received by the department for a fire in a mercantile and office building of brick and wood construction. On the arrival of the department the fire was found to be in the premises occupied as a dry goods store, and the smoke was so dense that it was almost impossible to enter the building. The fire was located in the basement, which was filled with merchandise, and I realized that we would have a hard fight to keep it from spreading through the building unless we could confine it to that part, as the partition walls above the first floor were of lath and plaster construction. Several lines of hose with one and one-eighth inch tips were laid from 6-inch hydrants on 10and 12-inch mains to front and rear basement windows (hydrant pressure 110 lbs.). And a two-way deluge set with one and three-quarter inch tip was used to keep the fire from the under side of the first floor, and so effective was this stream that the first floor was only burned through at one place. Still we seemed unable to reach the seat of the fire, so we went into the basements of the adjoining premises, and, using crowbars and battering rams, broke holes through the stone foundations, which enabled us to use our streams to greater advantage. On account of the smoke the firemen had to work in relays, only being able to stay in the basement two or three minutes at a time. In this manner the fire was confined to the basement and extinguished with the exception of a small area around the stairway leading from the basement. Several of the firemen were overcome by smoke, but fortunately only one required the attention of a doctor, the others being able to return to duty after a few minutes in the fresh air. This fire I consider the most difficult and hardest on the firemen I have experienced since becoming chief.—A. S. Kappcle, Chief, Stratford, Ont., Can.

My hardest fought fire, I believe, was the one on March 29, 1910, 6.38 P. M., at the Standard Oil Plant, situated on Kentucky Street and the Southern Railway. This was a very spectacular fire, attracting thousands to it, as the word had gone out the Standard Oil plant was on fire and the town was burning up. The fire started in a shed among some empty oil barrels and quickly spread to a gasoline tank containing 10,000 gallons of gasoline. This tank exploded, throwing the gasoline in the air 100 feet or more, and spreading the fire over a large area. Thousands of people had congregated on a viaduct crossing the Southern Railway and within a few hundred feet of the plant. When this explosion occurred there was a great stampede and scores were injured more or less from being trampled on as they fell helpless in their endeavor to escape. To add to the excitement, an engine team ran away, endangering the lives of many as they dashed through the streets. At the height of the fire a passenger train came through, and the conductor, not realizing the closeness of the track to the plant and the intense heat, he attempted to. and did, run by; but in doing so every glass in the coaches was broken and the people on the train almost became panic-stricken. A singular coincidence was the fact that my wife was on this train returning from a trip east. The fire was confined to the place of origin, with the exception of three small three-room dwellings across a narrow street, and a small manufacturing plant of the Tennessee Wood Fibre & Plaster Company across the railroad track. These buildings were ignited by the intense heat from the gasoline tanks and the rain of fire falling on shingle roof, and as our job was to try to confine the fire to the place of origin it was impossible to direct our attention from the Standard Oil fire and attempt to extinguish the three small houses and wood fibre plant. The loss to the adjoining property was only about $7,500, and as we managed to hold the fire in the area of its origin we considered that we had put up a splendid fight. There was in the yard of the Standard Oil plant one tank of 80,000 gallons, and another tank of 50,000 of kerosene oil. One tank of 18,000 gallons black oil, one tank of 18,000 gallons of gasoline, one tank of 18.000 gallons of naptha, one tank 5.000 gallons of machine oil, and several hundred barrels of various oils. These we managed to keep from burning and the actual loss from the fire was very small in comparison to the value at risk. It was reported several times during the progress of the fire that I had been killed, and one party thoughtlessly or foolishly rang my home while the fire was in progress to ascertain the fact. The fire was fought with three engine companies and a chemical company. After it was out and all over the thousands of people that watched it expressed themselves as wondering how it was stopped and the city was not consumed.—Sam B. Boyd. Chief, Knoxville, Tenn.

For a number of years I was chief of the fire department at Alliance, Ohio, and then went to East Liverpool, Ohio, to accept a similar position, being called to Harriman, Pa., in March, 1918, to take charge of the fire protection department of the Merchant Shipbuilding Corporation. Agent for the United States Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation. During my stay here there have been no fires of any consequence, either in the shipyard itself or in the town of Harriman, which is occupied by employees of the Merchant Shipbuilding Corporation, having been erected in connection with the shipyard to house its employees. The loss per fire for the year beginning March 15, 1918. and ending March 15, 1919, was only $3.92. This is due to the close inspection work which is done by members of the fire department, thus eliminating many fire hazards which might have resulted in a serious fire; and also to the quick response made to an alarm, enabling the department to get control of a fire before it can gain any headway.—Arthur S. Aungst, Chief, Department Fire Protection, Merchant Shipbuilding Corporation, Harriman, Pa.

We have had several tough propositions to contend with during my nearly twenty-five years’ incumbency, but perhaps the one possessing as many possibilities as any occurred on December 7, 1911, in the heart of the business section of the city. The buildings mentioned were practically one and the same, being separated only by a brick partition wall in which there were fourteen windows. These windows were to have been abolished in compliance with an insurance mandate on or before December 10. However, fire broke out in the theatre side at 4.59 P. M., December 7, and the seance was on. Second alarm sent in. Building 200 x 50 feet, three stories in height, with annex over 18-foot driveway connecting toy factory with business block on Main Street. Theatre side destroyed. Toy factory scarred somewhat. Loss, $30,000. Comments of Concord Evening Monitor, December 8: “The Globe Theater building on School Street and the factory of the Dux Toy Co. in the rear were destroyed by fire Thursday evening, and that Concord was saved a fire loss appalling in its magnitude was due to three causes : the lack of wind, the location of the burning buildings which opened them to the attack of the firemen on all four sides, and the wonderfully efficient work of the department under Chief Green, backed by a hydrant system that furnished all the water needed for the work in hand. Whatever the cause, the flames spread with the rapidity of lightning and when the first piece of apparatus arrived both buildings were belching flame and smoke from every window. There was no one in the theater building at the time the fire started, but it was different in the toy factory. There the entire force of men and girls were at work, and it was only through the cool judgment of the men in charge that there was not considerable loss of life. The work of the department in handling the blaze received quick recognition on all sides and the chief and his men have come in for many commendatory messages.” Two six-wav high pressure hydrants, three two-way low pressure hydrants and two engines used. 5,550 feet of hose used. Four firemen hurt. Checks aggregating $175 received for the Relief Association.—W. G. Green, Chief, Concord, N. H.

I think the fire which tried the mettle of the firemen most severely was when we were called out at 1.30 on the morning of January 10, 1912. with the thermometer registering 42 below zero, to find a three-story brick and wood block well alight. This building was 100 x 125 feet, about 20 years old. occupied by a large departmental store, picture theatre and living apartments on the upper floors occupied by 45 people. Most of those people were got out of the building by members of the fire department, especially the women and children. There was no loss of life or serious injury, except frost bites, of which the firemen got their share. This fire was fought under very trying circumstances on account of the extreme cold and a shortage of water, but the department managed to save over one third of the block. Our department was small at this time and over half the members were volunteers or call men. The most streams thrown at one time were seven, with one inch and one and one eighth inch nozzles. An Eastman deluge set was used part of time. No hose burst. No steamers used. Direct pumping system with about 85 lbs at the hydrant, tin my arrival I saw the building was doomed and ordered the firemen to rescue the people first. Fire under control in about four hours, but continued pouring water on all day. Have never had to fight a fire in such cold weather since the above.—IF. A. iVhite, Chief, Regina, Sask., Canada.

In reply to the question of my hardest fought fire since being chief of department, 1 might say that 1 was appointed chief Fellruary 9th, 1918 and my hardest fought fire was on May 31st. 1918 in a two-story brick warehouse occupied by the Gulf Refining Company as a gasoline station and warehouse for oi’s and gasoline, as well as a garage for their tank wagons. This building was located oil the main line of the Pennsylvania K. R. in a hollow at the foot of Gross street, this district as well as both sides of the hollow being built up thickly with frame dwelling houses and factories. The building was about 150 ft. wide and 200 ft. long and hail a steep slate roof. The fire started about three p. m. through the carelessness of electricians who were working in the basement repairing the wiring. The fire spread so fast that the workmen barely had time to get out of the building wi h their lives and in a few minutes the entire building was one mass of flames which seemed to soar in the air hundreds of feet from the exploding barrels of oil and gasoline. The building being located in the hollow made it very difficult for the department to do efficient work, the steep sides keeping the heat confined within the hollow and making it so hot the firemen had difficulty in getting near the building for some little time. We were kept busy preventing a group of tanks holding thousands of gallons of gasoline from igniting and blowing up from the intense heat. This group of tanks built up on a large concrete structure from which the tank wagons were loaded, were located within 100 ft. of the warehouse. By hard work they were saved as well as the frame dwelling houses at top of the hollow. The fire burned all night and well on into the next day and caused a loss of $260,000, the largest single loss we had in 1918. There was only one fire plug down in the hollow that we could get an engine to, all of the other lines of hose being laid down over the hill from streets overlooking the hollow.—William Bennett, Chief, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Gulf Refining Company Fire, May 31, 1918, at Pittsburgh, Pa.

I enclose an account of my hardest fought fire, clipped from FIRE AND WATKK ENGINEERING of January 22, 1919. The fire occurred on December 28 of last year. It may interest you to know that 1 entered the Parsons fire department on May U, 18%, it being part paid and part volunteer at that time. Was appointed chief June 9, 1902, in which capacity 1 have served ever since. During that time the department has advanced to a full paid and entirely motorized condition, anti we expect to install the two-platoon system on January 1, 1920. We will also install two 1,000-gallon pumpers some time during this year.—Walter Buel, Chief, Parsons, Kan inclosure from KIRK AND WATER ENGINEERING, January 22, 1919.)

Fire originating in the basement of the Strasburger building, resulted in one of the worst and hardest fought fires that the {’arsons, Kan., department, under Chief Walter Buel, has ever been called upon to handle. The first alarm was turned in at 1 :40 o’clock, and the department made a quick run to the scene, but unfortunately the fire had gained great headway, and the chief, who had risen from a sick-bed to be at his post, had all he could do, in conjunction with Assistant Chief Taylor, to prevent the fire from getting away from him. The Strasburger building burned like tinder, and in a very few minutes after the alarm was sounded seemed to be a seething mass of flame, smoke pouring from almost every window in the building, followed by bursts of flame. In a comparatively short time the entire building with its contents was a total loss. The illustrations, furnished by the courtesy of Chief Buel, give a very clear idea of the rapid progress of the fire. The heat from the burning buildings was so intense that spectators could not stand across the street from either direction and traffic was practically suspended. The damage to the buildings in all directions by the breaking of the plate glass windows, from the heat, was heavy. Besides the destruction of the Strasburger building, the Long Bell Lumber Company’s yard caught fire, and the stock of lumber on hand, with offices and fixtures, were destroyed. Another building, housing a grocery concern, was badly damaged, and the grocery stock practically destroyed. The losses on the Strasburger building and contents were estimated at $212,000, with $100,000 more on the stock and fixtures of tenants of the building. The Long Bell Lumber Company’s loss was fixed at $20,000. I consider my hardest fought fire was my first coal mine fire, that broke out in the straw and stables of old shaft No. 1 of the Decatur Coal Co. at 2.55 in the afternoon of January 16, 1905. The loss in this fire did not exceed several hundred dollars, but it cost the lives of six miners and almost caught eight or nine others. The day was bitter cold. Firemen put down a single lead from the nearest plug to the shaft, a distance of 700 feet. Neither my men nor I had ever before been in the mine, and it was necessary to ask for miners to volunteer to lead us. For a time not one of the miners would take the risk, but when the superintendent, Thomas Clark, came along, he volunteered and lead the party. As the elevator dropped in the shaft, a stop was made every fifty feet to make a coupling, until the 600-foot line had been strung from top to bottom. From the bottom of the shaft it was still 2,200 feet back to the fire. Hose for this was taken up to the fire in small coal cars and strung back from the fire to the bottom of the shaft. The scene that greeted my eyes when I arrived at the stables was far worse than Hades itself had ever been pictured. Flames roared and rolled, choking passageways. Timber supports gave way and crashed to the floor, allowing tons of dirt and rock to fall. And in all this time the big fresh-air fan had to be kept going at top speed. Had it stopped for a minute the smoke would have rolled back onto the firemen and rescue party and would probably have killed all of us, as the elevator was rendered inoperative by the lead of hose down the shaft. But every revolution of the huge machine only fanned the flames. Because of the low ceiling and nature of construction of the cross beams supporting the roof, the stream of hose could not be turned on the fire at an angle. It was necessary to get directly under the blaze and shoot the stream up, while timber and rock was falling all about. The pressure of water, already great at the top of the shaft, became terrific in its 600-foot fall, and it was all that four or five men could do to handle it. This blaze was fought for ten solid hours before it was entirely out. By that time the workers were so tired that they did not stop to take up the hose. They made their escape by crawling through a small narrow tunnel over a mile to the No. 2 shaft of the company, most of this distance being compassed on hands and knees.—C. IV. Devore, Chief, Decatur, 111. of the tee company instead of sending in a call for the department, until the fire got away from them, and when they did send in the alarm, they sent it to the Cincinnati department, instead of to the fire tower of Covington. So that with all this delay, I feel that I must congratulate my men for the excellent work they did in confining this fire to the place of origin.—Eduard A. Griffith, Chief, Covington, Ky.

Parsons, Kan., Fire—Just After First Lines Were Stretched

The enclosed clipping will give a better idea than I can of my “hardest fought fire,” which occurred on April 18, 1919. It is taken from a Troy daily.—Cornelius Casey. Chief, Troy, N. Y.


Three firms—W. B. Henderson, crockery merchant; C. L. Hulett, wholesale tobacconist, and Schmidt & Koerner, auctioneers and furniture dealers—sustained $90,000 loss in a fire which destroyed the Henderson building and badly damaged the other buildings occupied by the above occupants. The blaze was discovered at 11.15 last night and the out tap was sounded at 6.10 o’clock this morning. A peculiar coincidence is that the Mohican fire occurred two years ago this morning, April 18, 1917. Chief Casey was seriously wounded at that fire. It was only exceptional efforts on the part of Troy’s firemen, headed by Chief Casey, that prevented a conflagration. This is attested to by not alone the merchants suffering from the fire, but by competent witnesses. N’ever have the Troy firemen worked so quickly or efficiently, is the verdict of all, and Chief Casey was kept busy this morning replying to the congratulations that poured in from all sides. The danger to surrounding property was so great that a second alarm was turned in by the chief shortly after his arrival at the fire. It was one of the most spectacular fires seen in Troy in a long period. On the arrival of the firemen the blaze was sweeping from top to bottom in the rear of the Henderson building. In short order the lines of hose were laid front and rear and the department was soon in working order. Six lines were laid on River Street and five in the rear. Having gained such a headway, the blaze ate its way from the rear to the front of the building, a stiff breeze fanning the flames in that direction. At 11.50 o’clock the rafters supporting the roof in the rear gave way, and this falling carried the fourth and third floors downward. A section of the south wall fell into the roaring furnace, sending up a shower of sparks. At midnight the second floor gave way with its added burden of the third and fourth, and fell into the basement. This helped the firemen greatly in their efforts to drown out the fire. The fire was one of the most spectacular that has occurred in many months. Certainly not since the disastrous Mohican fire has one attracted so much attention. Thousands of persons from all sections came to watch the blaze, and from points of vantage on the hills about Troy the fire presented a grand spectacle. Incidentally, it marked Chief Casey’s first great effort, and he handled it so well that nothing but favorable comment was heard.

Fire Spreading—Entire First and Second Floors Involved

My worst fire occurred while the department was engaged at another fire in the west end of Davenport. It was on the evening of January 25, 1915, that a watchman discovered flames in front of an oven at the Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company, the time being 8.12. He immediately turned in the fire alarm, and, returning to the fire, attempted to put it out by means of the fire extinguishers. The flames had gained too much headway, however, and his efforts were of no avail. He returned to the office and again notified thhe fire department. Unfortunately, another factory in the west end of town was burning at the same time, and nearly all of the fire-fighting apparatus was down there. Finally the East End Company arrived and got busy. Other trucks were hurried up from the West End fire, and the Rock Island and Moline departments also arrived about this time. As it was several degrees below zero, the hose was frozen and proved very difficult to handle. Valuable time was lost in unloading the ice-filled hose and reloading new hose onto the automobiles at the Central Fire Station. In the meantime the flames were making rapid headway, and it was apparent that the Crescent factory was doomed to destruction. A heavy covering of snow alone prevented the spread of the fire to adjacent buildings. It was a most spectacular fire. No audience gathered in a Roman amphitheatre ever witnessed a more stirring spectacle. The flames shot several hundred feet heavenward at various times during the terrific blaze, and the sky was blightly illuminated for miles around. The materials within the building furnished immense fuel for the flames, and against such a start as the fire had gained before the companies arrived the many streams of water were practically useless. The fire burned for several days, the fire department keeping four lines of hose playing on it until it was entirely out. It was the largest fire in Davenport during the past twelve years, the loss amounting to over $250,000. Some idea of the size of the buildings destroyed may be gained when it is remembered that they contained over 100,000 square feet of floor space.—Peter Denger, Chief, Davenport, la.

After Fire Had Communicated Through Entire Building—

The fire which the enclosed clipping describes I consider my hardest fought fire because it was first fought by the employees


One of the most threatening fires that has visited Covington in years broke out at 2:30 o’clock May 4, 1919, in the City Ice Company’s plant at Second and Scott streets. The entire Fire Department was on the scene in a few minutes and worked for nearly two hours before getting the fire under control. When Chief Griffith and the department reached the scene dense volumes of black smoke were issuing through the ventilators in the roof and through windows. They began to play on the fire from the roof, but when the flames burst through under their feet they were compelled to retreat and fight the fire from the windows. The firemen did good work in preventing the spread of the flames to two large buildings on the east side of Scott street, formerly occupied by the James Walsh Distillery Company, one now used by the Cramer Toy Company and the other by the Symphony Player Piano Company. A wooden bridge connecting the two buildings was burned away by the intense heat from the fire. Mr. Adams praised the work of the firemen in preventing the spread of the flames. He said that he was unable to tell what the damage by smoke may be in the storage part of the plant.

The Final Stages of the Fire—Under Control

Relative to your request for a short account of “my hardest fought fire,” I beg to be excused, as 1 do not feel that the article would be of interest to your readers, we having had no really big or difficult fires here. This is due in a large part to our splendid equipment, and also to the fact that we have adopted as our motto “Fight the Fire Before Lit.” In 1917 we had 472 alarms, which by close inspection we reduced to 301 alarms in 1918 with a very small loss. El Paso was the first city in Texas to be completely motorized and to install the double platoon system, and also has the further distinction of having the lowest key rate in the state, that of fifteen cents. When the writer came here from the Memphis, Tenn., fire department in 1915 to take charge they had forty men in this department, whereas we now have eighty-seven men and ten completely motorized companies. In the meantime Iil Paso has grown from 39,000 to 81,000 inhabitants, and is no longer an “adobe” village, but has its full share of sixto twelve-story modern buildings.—Jno. IV. Wray, Chief, El Paso, Tex.

Entailing a loss of $140,000 partially covered by insurance, a fire destroyed the buildings and lumber yards of Spruks Brothers, at Cedar Avenue and Orchard Street, Scranton, Pa., on August 28, 1917. It was the worst fire experienced by me during my term as head of the local fire department. The blaze which broke out in mid-afternoon taxed the fire fighters of the city to their limit. For four hours we battled to prevent the flames reaching buildings on Stephen Avenue, to the southeast of the lumber plant. WilkesBarre, Pittston, Old Forge, Duryea, Dunmore and Olyphant sent apparatus and men to aid us. Hose Company No. 8 of WilkesBarre made the trip in thirty minutes. Far into the night streams of water played on the burning wreckage and it was not until the following day that the forces were called away from the scene of the conflagration. The origin of the fire was undetermined. It started in the planing mill and shavings proved ready fuel for the flames. The mill was a raging furnace inside when the first companies arrived. There were about 4,000,000 feet of lumber in the yard and practically all of it was destroyed. Although the fire was one of the biggest that Scranton has suffered in a long time only one fireman was injured. Heavy rails in the yards were buckled by the heat. The ties were burned, along with nearly 200 mine cars completed for small mining companies of the region. Burning embers from the mill fire ignited dwelling houses several hundred feet away from the mill property and buildings half a block away on Stephen Avenue were blistered.—Peter J. Rosar, Superintendent Bureau of Fire, Scranton, Pa.

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In regard to article covering my hardest fought fire, my memory fails me as to which particular fire during the past 35 years was my hardest fought, as I have had so many that were hard. However, among fires occurring in buildings, it has been my experience that grain elevators present the most difficult conditions. This is owing to the extreme height of the structure and the absence of openings.—F. L. Stetson. Chief, Seattle, IVash.

The “hardest fought fires” are usually those where you go to help your neighbors, where there is no water except what is brought from a small well in a quart cup. The largest fires are not always the hardest fought fires. Ten degrees below zero fires try men’s souls; likewise brush and grass fires at 90 degrees above when they are controlled entirely by brooms and a few tanks of chemicals are hard fought fires even if the damage is light.—Howard L. Stanton, Chief, Norwich, Conn.

I expect to attend the convention at Kansas City next month and affiliate myself with the International Association of Fire Engineers, as I want to be one of the boys and on the map with other progressive fire chiefs of the various cities of the good old U. S. I will say that while I have been very fortunate in not having any serious fires, I have had many of them during the five months that I have been the chief. My hardest fought fire is to educate the citizens of this city to avoid fire hazards. I have instituted a rigorous campaign to reduce fire hazards and am constantly on the trail to see that it is carried out. That is really my hardest fought fire. And I feel that when I have once accomplished my aim I really have won a great victory.—II. J. Lohmann, Chief, Aurora, III.

We have had many large fires in Lynchburg; possibly one of the greatest was in the building owned by Barker Jennings, wholesale hardware, located on Jefferson and Tenth Streets, running back the whole length of the square to Jefferson Street, and built on the side of a steep hill, so that you can readily see what the firemen had to contend with. The alarm was given at 8.30 A. M., December 2, 1917, a Sunday morning. The department responded in from two to four minutes, but on arrival we found the building on fire from top to bottom. We used 16 lines of hose, a water tower, 4 engine and 8 hydrant streams from high pressure of 125 pounds. The building was valued at $100,000, with a loss of $31,000; the contents’ value was $400,000; loss, $195,000. The adjoining property, a wholesale grocery, was damaged only by water seeping through the walls the fire was confined to the hardware building. — IP. /.. Sandidge, Chief, Lynchburg, Pa.

My hardest fought fire was on April 15, 1919, for which alarm was received at 4 A. M., by phone, it being in the First National Bank Building, constructed partly of cement and stone. On arrival, 1 found part of first floor involved. The heat and smoke were very, very bad. I at once ran two lines in at front and one at back of building. It was so smoky one couldn’t see, so 1 put the two front lines on first floor and the rear line in cellar. Then, as I saw we were making good headway, I also put one front line in cellar. We then handled the fire with very little trouble. There was in service one chemical, one chemical and hose, and one White combination pumper and hose cart. We have five regular and two call men in the department.—lid. Hamm, Chief, IP infield. Ran.

The two-platoon system will go into effect in Wichita, Kan., on January 1, 1920. Seventeen new firemen will be needed and the extra cost to the city is estimated at $20,000 a year.

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