Poor Housekeeping—Planing Mill Burns
Accumulation of Shavings Gives Fire Good Start—Department Faces Great Odds
THE fire described in this article of the series on administration is typical of the planing mill fire. A good start, plenty of combustible material around, insufficient fire protection, and complete destruction the result.
The city in which this fire occurred has a population of approximately 8,000 and is located in the northwest section of the country.
The fire department consists of three engine companies each equipped with a triple combination machine and one truck company, having a city service ladder truck.
Two of the triple combination machines are of 700 gallon capacity and one 500 gallon capacity.
Response to Alarms
A first alarm brings out Engine Cos. Nos. 1 and 2 and the city service truck.
A general alarm brings out the remaining engine company.
The water supply surrounding the plant was limited, there being but a single 6-inch main from the city water system, a distance of over 1,000 feet. This 6-inch main was dead-ended.
Four hydrants were available as shown on the diagram herewith.
As shown in the diagram the plant consisted of five buildings and three large groups of lumber piles.
The largest building, the planing mill, was one story in height, of brick construction with wooden roof. All interior construction was also of wood. This plant was equipped with the usual line of wood-working machinery typical of this size of mill, which was engaged in turning out doors, window frames, window sashes and similar articles.
Directly to the west of the planing mill, and at its southern end, was a one-story frame storehouse used for storing window sashes, etc. Just beyond this building was a row of two buildings and a large pile of lumber. One building, a one-story frame shed, was used for the storage of lumber; the other building was a one-story brick garage with a wooden roof.
Directly west of these two buildings and lumber piles were two large groups of piles in which lumber was stored until needed.
Still further west was a two-story frame storehouse for the storage of doors and other finished articles. This latter building was reached by a switch track from the railroad as shown in the diagram.
At the west end of the block was a large stove factory of brick and joist construction together with a small warehouse, two stories in height, of brick construction.
Condition of Plant
The planing mill inside represented the very poorest of “housekeeping.” No provision was made for the disposal of shavings, and they were used largely for heating the building—heating being provided by two large iron stoves. It was in these stoves that all of the shavings were burned.
The fire occurred during noon hour through one of the stoves setting fire to a pile of shavings. The shavings had not been afire more than a couple of minutes before the flames had reached a large pile of finished stock nearby. All hands were having their lunch, as usual, in the garage and the fire was not discovered until the smoke of it reached the garage.
An alarm was immediately transmitted by telephone to the fire department which sent out a first alarm assignment consisting of Engine Co. No. 1 with a 700 gallon pumper, Engine Co. No. 2 with a 500 gallon pumper and a truck company with a city service truck.
In the meantime an attempt was made to hold the fire but due to the fact that there was no equipment on hand for this purpose no headway was made.
By the time the fire department had arrived fire had spread throughout the planing mill and it was evident that this building was destined to go to the ground. Engine Co. No. 1 took hydrant No. 1 and stretched in a single line to the northern end of the building. A second line was laid shortly after from the same engine to the east side of the building, operating through a window. Engine No. 2 was stationed at hydrant No. 2 and a single line stretched to the south end of the planing mill.
A general alarm was sent in at once calling out the remaining engine company.
After the lines had been operating in the positions noted for possibly five minutes, the fire went through the roof of the planing mill and seriously threatened the storehouse to the west.
The line from the second engine operating at the south end of the planing mill was too much engaged to note the danger of this exposure and as a result, about the time the remaining engine company rolled in from the city, the frame storehouse was ablaze.
The fire quickly jumped from this building to the lumber pile directly to the west and the lumber pile fire reached the shed and other lumber piles.
An attempt was then made, by placing Engine Co. No. 3 at hydrant No. 3 and stretching a single line to the garage, to prevent fire entering this building, but the heat was so intense from the fire in the frame storehouse that the line had to retreat leaving this building to the mercy of the flames.
The wind, carrying the heat toward the west, soon drove the fire into the two-story frame storehouse adjacent to the lumber piles, and this building was fully involved after a few minutes.
The chief of the department noting the hopelessness of the situation concentrated all lines at the west of the two-story frame storehouse, and by judicious use of streams prevented fire from extending to the stove factory and warehouse adjacent thereto.
The Editor’s ideas on the handling of this fire will be given in the next issue of this journal.