SHANNON BUILDING, NORWICH, BURNED
Socially written for Fire and Water Engineering.
The Shannon building at Norwich, Conn., whose destruction by lire has long been expected, fulfilled these anticipations early in the morning of February 9. In every possible way it was one of the worst constructed buildings possible in which to fight a fire, and was, besides, located right in the centre of the city, on a corner plot, fronting about 100 ft. on both Main and Shetucket streets in a highly congested section. It was built to burn, and has been watched by the entire fire department ever since it was erected eighteen years ago, during which period many fires took place in it. In the case of these fires an alarm was always given in time for Chief Howard L Stanton and his men to get to the scene in time to prevent any serious loss. On this occasion, however, owing to the fire breaking out early in the morning and there being no automatic alarm nor any night watchman on the premises, the department received no notice till two passersby saw the flames rising rapidly inside, near the elevator. They did not turn in an alarm, however, but contented themselves with crying “fire” and then running to an adjacent all-night lunchroom, before calling out the department, one going to one box, the other to another, and in this way mixing up the alarms and forcing the firemen to wait till a telephone menage from the police headquarters set them right. When thev arrived the 5-story building was more than well alight. The flames which apparently had started on the second floor, probably among some rubbish in the janitor’s closet near the airshaft, had made their way up the elevator and airshaft to the roof, 25 ft. above, and were bursting through it. If the building had been even decently constructed, or even moderately fire-resistant, or equiped with sprinklers, the firemen would have been given some chance. But nothing could be done with a mere brick shell, with partitions, joists, floors, etc., of yellow pine, all dry after many years’ service. There was no delay on the side of the department. Within three minutes of the alarm sounding, the engines got to work. At first there were two belonging to the city operating on the blaze, a Yantic engine coming in afterwards. There were, besides, 3 combination chemical and hose wagons, 1 aerial and 1 city truck and 3 hose wagons. There were available six 4-in. and 6-in. double and 3-way hydrants, distant from 300 to 400 ft. from each other, the pressure at which was from 70 to 85 lb. There were, also, three cisterns available. A 10-in. main of the gravity supply was laid along the street, in front of the burned building and furnished an ample supply of water for both plug and engine streams, twelve of which were thrown at one time, six from the hydrants and six from the engines, which draughted from the cisterns. Five thousand and five hundred feet of Fabric Fire Hose company’s hose were laid, and every length remained intact to the end. Three Eastman Deluge sets and nozzles from to l’/^-in. were in service. The contents of the Shannon building comprised drygoods, drugs, etc., and part of it was let out in offices and apartments, in some of which persons were sleeping at the time. No lives, however, were lost, and all the tenants got out in safety. The loss was estimated at $400,000, insured for about $200,000. The building was doomed from the first, and before the alarm was sounded, and all the efforts of the firemen were devoted to saving the lives of the sleepers and preventing, as far as possible, damage to the surrounding property. In that the department was wonderfully successful, and, if Chief Stanton had had more engines—and for the better safeguarding – of the city he should have at least two more—the damage to the adjoining buildings would have been very much less. Handicapped and all as he was, however, and unable to use the Shetucket river for want of foundations for a wharf or pier strong enough to support the weight of an engine (something that should be provided in the immedate future), he saved a conflagration. The Shannon building was destroyed, and three adjoining buildings in this very congested section of the city were pretty badly damaged. But the fire was so well stopped as to call forth universal praise from the insurance men—those who, after the suppression of the fire, were most interested in the matter, and most likely to criticise the operations of the fire department. No one was hurt, the firemen escaping uninjured, although the walls crashed down round them. The city, however, may not get off so easily again, as, in case of a big fire getting away from the department, which, however unlikely, is a possibility, Chief Stanton’s nearest neighbors likely to afford material help are New Haven, Providence, Hartford and Worcester, the nearest being 45 miles off. It is a source of great gratification all round that the Fairview reservoir held out so well during these nineteen hours, and that the only criticism in Chief Stanton is that in fighting the fire he used water that should have been kept for drinking purposes.