PUBLIC BUILDING OF UTICA DESTROYED
Specially Written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.
Within a few hours Utica, N. Y., was visited with two destructive fires. One, which broke out on the afternoon of February 28, laid waste the Moshier block, a handsome pile of building on Blcecker street and kept the firemen busy all night. On the following morning at 2:47—on March 1—the home of the Y. M. C. A. at the corner of Charlotte and Bleecker streets, half a block from the Moshier establishment, caught fire, from what cause is unknown, and was completely destroyed. The building w’as a fine, fourstory structure, of brick, with brown stone trimrnings, architecturally an ornament to the city, and, besides the portion set apart for Y. M. C. A. purposes, part of the building was rented as a music store, part as a clothing store and part as a plumbing establishment. It was built in 1888 and stood on the street with 60 ft. in front of it. When the fire department arrived, it was found that the fire, which had broken, out on the third floor front, was all through the upper floors and basement. This was easily accounted for. as the interior of the building was finished in Georgia pine one of the most resinous woods to be found. As soon as Chief Sullivan reached the spot he sounded the “three threes,” calling out the whole department with two Metropolitan engines, two La France and one Clapp & Jones -a sixth steamer. No. 5, had been put out of service at the Moshier tire two aerial trucks and one city service truck, with 6,700 ft. of cotton, rubberlined hose, and the chemical engine. Nine 6 in. hydrants, situated on an average 300 feet from each other were available at the fire. From the 1 >eginning of the fire to the end the water-pressure from the gravity supply was fair about 80 lbs. and, besides the streams thrown by the engines, four were for some time thrown from hydrants till falling walls cut them off and at the same time cut two lengths of hose. The nozzles used were 1 S-in. to 154-in., besides a Glazier nozzle, which did excellent service. The firemen, although badly handicapped by the intense heat of the blazing Georgia pine, stuck manfully to their work. The chemical engine, however, owing to the great headway made by the flames, was of no use and was held in reserve, in case any adjoining property should catch. No. t steamer operated at the corner of Post and Charlotte streets; No. 2, at the hydrant on Bleecker street just east of Charlotte street; No. 4, at the comer of Genesee and Lafayette streets and later at the corner of Genesee and Bleecker streets; No. 6, at the corner of Bleecker and Burnet streets; and No. 7, at the Arcade. Each was stationed at a salient point of vantage, so as to command the flames from front, side and rear. It was long before their streams appeared to have any effect, so fiercely did the fire rage. It had made too great headway, and it was seen from the first that nothing could save the building. The engines were so skilfully disposed that none of the mains were drained by them. Two engines tapped the 20 in. main in Genesee street; tw’o pumped from the 8-in. main in Bleecker street; and ordy one engine drew from the 6-in. main in Charlotte street. In the earliest stage of the fight the hydrant streams from the 20-in. main in Genesee street reached the seat of the fire in the third story; but some thought they lacked force and that that was subsequently added by the force of the steamers behind them. After the three threes had been turned in, and all the apparatus was on the scene, the water volume was certainly quite adequate. About twenty minutes after the department had begun work, the volume of heat generated blew out a section of the walls and windows on the Bleecker street side. But slight warning of the impending fall of the walls was given the firemen, and they had kucK time to lower ladders and haul away the apparatus to points of safety when the crash came. Some of the firemen and spectators were cut by the flying splinters of glass; but most of the injuries were of a minor nature. Many store windows opposite were smashed by the shower of bricks. The Arcade building caught fire at intervals; but received only trifling damage. The fall of the wall smashed the trolley and telephone wires, which continued to sputter and be dangerous fur a long time. The Bell telephone building was in danger; hut took practically no hurt. It L fireproof, and its stout party wall next to the V. M. C. A. building acted as a fire-stop and saved the situation. The walls of the Y. M. C. A. house were thin and not calculated to offer any lengthened existence to fire; hence, their fall within twenty minutes of the arrival of the department. The lot and building were valued at $115,000—the cost of the building was $80,000. The organisation also owned the Kinney block adjoining, worth $25,000. It was very little injured. The burned building contained a wide hallway and stairway leading to the first floor, on which were the offices and reading-rooms of the association. In the basement were howling alleys. On the second floor were located the dining room, kitchen, boys’ department, the business men’s and general locker-rooms. The third floor was used for the gymnasium, the physical director’s office, and a gallery, which was above the gymnasium. O11 the top floor was stored the property of the association. The assembly hall on the first floor was a commodious room. The total fire-loss amounted to $125,000, fully covered by insurance. The two fires which followed so closely, one on the other, cost in the aggregate about $250,000, and one of the local papers reads into this big contribution to the city’s ashheap the lesson that the water supply should be increased, so as to afford greater protection. Doubtless, if the two fires had been raging at once, there would have been considerable lack of pressure, and that the two followed so closely on each other shows the possibility of such a disaster ensuing, with probably very destructive consequences. The 8-in. main that did such good service—all of the same size in the congestedvalue section—should he replaced by larger and stronger ones, as increased pressure might cause them to burst at a critical moment. Another lesson is that of burying the overhead wires, which on this occasion not only hampered the work of the firemen, but were absolutely a source of dan ger, when they broke down under the shock of the fall of the Bleecker street wall. More attention should also he paid to the erection of fireproof buildings, and it is certainly to be expected that the next V M. C. A. home shall he sprinklered (that just burned out was not) and of a fire-resistant character, and that its rccent purchase, the Kinney building, which is to be used for dormitory and business purposes, shall be sprinklered and equiped with fire-escapes, standpipes and other appliances. It is not possible to criticise the fire department. Despite the handicap of the two extremes of ice and fire and the fatigue incidental to having worked hard at the Moshier fire—far into the night, some all night—the men displayed wonderful pluck, nerve, and promptness. Their discipline was perfect, and the skill shown hv Chief Sullivan and his aides in preventing the tire from spreading to the adjoining buildings merits the highest commendation.