Salem Has Another Large Fire
Salem, Mass., had another large fire Wednesday, January 21, when the century old Essex House, the principal hotel in the city, and an adjoining business building at Essex and St. Peters Streets were gutted with an estimated loss of about $200,000. The value of the property was $300,000. In the same block, which is the most central block in the heart of the business section, is located the City Hall, on Washington Street, and the Central Fire Station in Church Street. It is only two short blocks from the conflagration zone of June 25. The first alarm was sent in at 6.38 P. M. The fire started from an unknown cause in the basement of the large grocery store of Cobb, Bates & Yerxa in the two-story brick Leavitt building, corner of Essex and St. Peters Streets. It was an intensely smoky fire and not until it had been burning for several hours was it at all spectacular. The smoke was unusually thick, very dark, and much of it came from the burning of 300 bags of charcoal near where the fire started and was a severe handicap as it prevented firemen from entering the building. It was the most stubborn fire in the city in years; it burned very slowly. Several firemen, including Chief W. O. Arnold, were overcome by smoke and had to receive pulmotor treatment. Before the fire got out of the basement Chief Arnold realized that he had an unusually bad fire and sent to Beverly and Peabody for assistance. Immediately on his arrival at the fire he called the entire Salem department on a general alarm. The fire slowly worked its way through the wood partitions to the upper floor. It was not until two hours after the fire started that flames appeared, and additional assistance was then called from Lynn and Marblehead. Within a few minutes of the discovery of the fire a large ammonia tank in the basement exploded and several firemen had narrow escapes. Most of the streams were directed into the basement but so dense was the smoke that the fire could not be seen. The fire soon reached the large store above but only by drowning out methods could the fire be reached. At 10 o’clock but little impression had been made on the fire which was slowly gaining throughout the building. At 11 o’clock the fire appeared in a corner of the Essex House and burned through the roof notwithstanding many streams were then on every section where fire was seen or was supposed to be. The wind was then increasing in velocity, the cold was increasing, the ladders and firemen coated with ice, and the burning buildings heavily charged with dense smoke, making it one of the most difficult fires to handle and additional assistance was then summoned from Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Lawrence. The fire now commenced to be spectacular but soon the department commenced to get the best of it and after it had gutted both the Leavitt Building and the Essex House it was under control. The buildings were of brick walls and wood partitions. All the street floors were occupied by stores and the second story of the Leavitt Building by business offices. There were 50 guests in the hotel at the time. It had 75 rooms. Chief Arnold had one hand lacerated by falling glass and was overcome by smoke at about 9.15 o’clock, was taken to a hospital where he soon recovered and returned to his post at the fire. Assistant Chief H. C. Kimball was in command during his absence. The pulmotor of the Electric Lighting Company was voluntarily used by its employees on many firemen in the rooms of the Veteran Firemen’s Association across the street from the fire. There were 17 engine streams on the burning buildings from eleven engines of Salem and other cities and towns. Three ladder trucks and 2 hose-chemical wagons were also in service. The water pressure was about 47 pounds and six flush Lowry and 3 post hydrants. 400 feet apart were used, also cellar pipes and water gun. Essex Street, the principal street in the business section at this point, is 45 feet wide. The assistance sent by seven cities and towns was as follows: Beverly, Engine 4 and hose wagon, Assistant Chief J. J. Whittenhaeen in command ; Peabody, Engine 1 and Hose Wagon 4, Chief J. F. Barrett. One of the engine horses gave out part way to the fire and one horse hauled the engine the remaining distance. Lynn, Motor Pumping Engine 2. which was in service the longest of any motor pumping engine at the Salem conflagration in June, and motor truck 2, in command of Chief E. E. Chase; Marblehead, a motor pumping engine, Assistant Chief W. H. H. Atkins, in command; Boston, Engines 6 and 27, made the 16-mile run in 16 minutes over the B. & M. R. R., but their services were not required. Chelsea, Motor Engine 2, which recently pumped 52 hours and 45 minutes at a Chelsea lumber fire, in charge of Chief D. M. Hudson, made the 12-mile run under its own power in 33 minutes, arriving at 11.50 o’clock, which is three minutes better time than the same engine made to the Salem conflagration. Revere, motor combination. Assistant Chief Smith, in command. Lawrence, could not secure railroad transportation in time to reach the fire before it was under control. The press and public gave the firemen much credit for the manner in which the fire was handled.