PIER FIRE AT GALVESTON
Specially written for Fire and Water Engineering
Originating with the explosion of the lantern of a watchman on pier 12, the most extensive wharf fire in the history of Galveston, Tex., burned for three hours, practically burning itself out shortly before midnight, after destroying the entire wharf and wharf sheds, entailing a loss estimated at $350,000. The wharf and wharfsheds were valued at $60,000, fully covered by insurance. On the wharf were 7,000 bales of cotton, 200 tons of cotton-seed meal, 350 bbls. of cotton-seed oil, oil cake, sissal, ten boxcars, loaded and empty, and 30,000 ft. of lumber, logs, etc. In the slip on the east side of the wharf lay two steamers, the Leyland liner Indian and the Shira. The Indian had steam up, and, together with the tug Ima Hogg, towed the Shira into the channel and to a wharf at a safe distance from the blaze. Elevator A, the capacity of which is 1,000,000 bushels, had a narrow escape; but by flooding the floor from the tanks the building was saved. Pier 10 was badly blistered, but otherwise uninjured. The fire department, under Chief J. II. Gernand, had the hardest fight of its life, but was handicapped in every way. The wind was from the south, and the fire started from the south end, and, as it extended northwards from its point of origin and projected outwards into the water, there was no means of getting at the opposite side with the steamers, which had to pump salt water from the bay independently of the hydrant. The very inflammable nature of the contents, also, created such a fierce blaze, which was increased by the strong wind, as to defy all the efforts of the firemen to quell the progress of the flames. Piers 12 and 13, where the fire originated, formed, as it were, a double pier in the northeast section of the city, and occupied a space of 900×275 ft. The building, at the south end of which the fire started, was 16 years old, 30 ft. high, of wood and unsprinkk red. When the lire department arrived. the entire south end was ablaze and burning furiously. Three steamers, a Nott and two Metropolitan, were employed ; but they had only four 3-way, 6-in. Mathews hydrants, separated from 200 to 300 ft. from each other. On the street, in front, which was 80 ft. wide, was laid a 10-in main. Seven hydrant streams were thrown, the pressure being 85 lb. In addition, five engine streams of salt-water from the bay u-ere thrown, twelve streams altogether being thrown continuously for a long time. The amount of 2 1/2 in. cotton, rubber-lined, hose laid w-as 6,000 ft., of which none burst during the fire. The nozzles employed were ¾-in. to 1⅞-⅛., Eastman and other open and shut-off nozzles being used, and the waterworks system being pumping direct. The total loss (estimated) was $350,000; the insurance on the buildings was $60,000; on the contents, unknown. A corner of pier No. 12 was left standing; pier No. 13 was entirely consumed. They had the same shedcovering. with railway tracks down the centre, and a wagon road on each side. On the east side was a hydrant. Another hydrant was on the west corner outside—making two directly outside of each pier more than 30 ft. from the ihed, Inside of (he shed were three hydrants; but the department could not reach them till the shed was down. They were then melted and useless. The two steamers were at pier No. 10. There were, also, two tugs,which threw water; but they were not equiped for fire purposes, and were about sufficient to throw water on the embers when the worst was over. The cotton was in bales, of which quite a number were thrown overboard for salvage purposes. Just south of the sheds was a pile of barrel staves ready for exportation, leaving about 80 or 100 ft. roadway between the sheds and staves. Between 500 and 600 bbls. of oil were burned, and the blazing oil floating on the water was a constant source of danger. The accompanying illustrations from photographs, specially taken for this journal, show all these details.
Fire Chief J. H. Gernand has every reason to be well satisfied with the work done by his department at Galveston, Tex., during the past year. Three hundred and seventeen alarms were answered, the department being in service 329 hours. The insurance involved upon buildings and stock visited by fire during 1908 aggregated $110,117.50. Of this amount $67,117.50 was on buildings and $43,000, on contents. There was paid out $8,129.53 on the total amount of insurance recorded—$4,534.20 on buildings; $3,594.33 on contents. The total value of the insured buildings at risk was $109,900; where there was no insurance, the value of the buildings at risk was estimated at $2,806.50. The fire alarm boxes (Gamewell) were pulled sixty-five times as against 211 telephone and thirty-two still alarms. There were 239 fires in frame structures during the year: 24 were in trash piles, 21 were false alarms. In twenty-three cases the fires were in brick structures; 3 were of waste oil; 3 automobiles were burned; 2 tar pots; 1 signal lamp, and 1 brick-veneered house complete the list of actual frees. Chimney frres were the most common—their number being no less than 159; trash fires, 33; lamp explosions, 21; unknown origin, 14; carelessness and oil stoves, 9 apiece; gasoline stoves, 8; defective chimneys, 7; incendiary, 6. The other fires were as usually caused. The department used 2.141 ft. of ladder at fires; 48,000 ft. of hose; 511 gal. of chemicals.