PACKING HOUSE FIRE AT PETROLIA
Specially Written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING
On October 31, about 2 o’clock a. m., the big plant of the Petrolia, Ont., Packing company was discovered to be on fire. When the alarm was given, the flames were issuing from the elevatorshaft and the singeing-flue on the north side of the building. They soon reached the middle of the building, and within a very short time the lard refuting and the killing rooms on the south side were involved. The fire department, under Chief li. Preston, turned out very promptly and found a very hot fire at the foot of the stairway, up which, and the elevator shaft the flames rushed as if they were flues. Two streams were immediately thrown on the fire—one on the stairway at its base; the other on the third and top floors. The latter stream was so judiciously directed that it saved the hogpens and engine rooms. Beyond the singeing room on to the east front were the cold storage floors, with the icehouse at the northeast end separated by a narrow yard from the main building. Four other lines of hose were run to the front of the building, and these streams were doing good work and would probably have saved the first floor, if, the south wall had not collapsed and fallen on, and buried the hose, thereby rendering them useless. Added to that misfortune was the lack of a sufficient high water pressure to do thoroughly effective work on such a fierce fire, whose flames were fed by a large Quantity of highly inflammable material, the grease from which had soaked into the floors during the three years that the plant has been in existence. As it was, the firemen did well to save the hogpens, the engine rooms and machinery and the icehouse—-the last with very great difficulty. The main building. with its machinery, was a total loss, but most of the office furniture was saved. The north wall was the first to fall; the collapse of those on the cast and south soon followed, completing the ruin. The fire, however, continued to burn fiercely in the basement. The total loss was not less than $125,000. The origin of the fire is not known; by some it was thought to have been set by incendiaries. But what could he the motive for such a crime cannot even he guessed at. The watchman on the premises declares that he had made his usual round, and fifteen minutes before the fire broke, out had passed the stairway and the etevatorshaft, but had not seen any sign of fire. The night fireman in the hoilerhouse, also, saw no trace of fire in his neighborhood, nor anyone near the place. Chief E. Preston states that during the fire the department “used six streams and two steamers, a hook and ladder truck and 2,000 feet of hose. There were two hydrants in the yard, with engine connections on an eight-inch ntaitt, and on the street were two more hydrants on a twelve-inch main, with thirty-seven pounds pressure. The front, or main building faced on the railroad tracks, and, of course, no water mains were there. Across the track the large works of the Standard Oil company are situated, and there arc oil wells on the north and south. No outside help was asked for, and we worked hard for seven hours. The walls were of brick; the building was four stories high, with no cross-walls. There were pine floors laid on cedar timbers, with holts through the bricks into the ends of the timbers. The fire certainly started in the elevator shaft and spread to the floors above.” Petrolia is a very fiery oil town, with a fire area of forty acres, on which stand, besides some brick business buildings, two and four stories high, a large number of wooden structures, whose roofs are of wood laid in mortar, and many oil derricks, tanks, and wells. Its fire department consists of thirty members, of whom two are paid full time, and three part time, the rest being volunteers. The equipment is as follows: Steamers, two; hand engine; hook and ladder trucks, two (one in reserve! ; hose carriage, four; chemical extinguishers, three; chief’s buggy; hose, rubber, good, 2,100 feet, inferior boo feet, cotton, good, 530 feet, inferior, 100 feet; fire alarm, bell and whistle. The source of the water supply is the lake, eleven miles from the business centre; too hydrants are set, and the fire pressure is from twenty-five pounds to thirty-seven pounds.