First-Alarm Companies Find Hottest Fire in Their Experience — Firemen Severely Hurt When Caught by Falling Wall

A ROARING six-alarm fire, fanned by a strong south-east wind that carried showers of sparks and burning fire brands for many blocks, swept quickly through the large block bounded by South Seventeenth and South Eighteenth Streets, Merrimans Way and the Monongahela River front in the large South Side manufacturing and warehouse district on Wednesday night. May 19.

The abandoned plants of the Keystone Lumber Company and Factory “K” of the United States Glass Company were destroyed together with three dwelling houses in Merriman’s Way. Scores were forced from their homes.

The spectacular fire, seen for miles attracted thousands of spectators who watched the fire from automobiles along the Boulevard of the Allies on the

Bluff across the Monongahela River and from the high hilltops overlooking the South Side.

The fire started from some unknown cause in the abandoned two and threestory brick office building and planing mill of the Lumber Plant at South 17th Street and Merriman’s Way. It was first discovered by a watchman in a nearby factory and he sent in the first alarm.

Fire spread so quickly through the old brick and frame factory buildings that when the first alarm fire companies arrived, half of the large block was a mass of flames. Firemen answering the first alarm with twenty or more years of fire service, remarked that in all their experience they had never witnessed such a roaring mass of flames at the start of a big fire.

Battalion Chief William H. Kuhlman of the Fifth Battalion immediately upon his arrival sent in four addition alarms in quick succession, the second at 10:56 p.m., third at 10:57, the fourth at 11:02, and fifth at 11:03 p.m. These were followed by a special telephone call at 11:43 p.m. for two additional companies.

The five alarms and special call were answered by fourteen Engine Companies and three Truck Companies, Chief Nicholas A. Phelan and two Battalion Chiefs, William H. Kuhlman and Sol Kramer, with a manual force of ninetythree firemen. There were eighteen pieces of apparatus, including one 1,250gallon, five 1,000-gallon and eight 750gallon triple combination pumpers, one combination hose, chemical and turret wagon and two 85-foot and one 75-foot aerial trucks.

Firemen used fifteen 1 14-inch pumper streams and nine hydrant streams, with 15,700 , feet of 2 1/2-inch hose in service, 550 feet of 1-inch lead line hose, and 583 feet of ladders.

During the fire two firemen were seriously injured and three others received minor hurts. A hoseman was caught in the sudden crash of a large section of the heavy timber and frame wall of the lumber storage buildings in Merriman’s Way. Suffering a possible fractured skull, and burns and bruises about the head, face and body, Schneider was pulled from beneath the blazing mass of timbers by Chief Phelan and rushed to the Mercy Hospital.

Chief Phelan and a number of his men working in Merriman’s Way also had a narrow escape from possible death or serious injury when the blazing wall fell across the narrow thoroughfare.

Ruins of the 6-Alarm Fire at Pittsburgh View of the ruins looking down Merriman’s Way toward 17th Street. The heavy timber wall stretched across the street, is the one that caught a fireman as it crashed to the ground.

As the flames swept through the lumber plant into the rear of the large abandoned three-story brick and frame glass factory and warehouse, the automatic sprinkler system which had not been disconnected or shut off when the glass plant was abandoned, was set in operation by the flames.

Although the sprinklers checked the fire to some extent in the glass factory, the flames spread so quickly and became so intensely hot, that in a very short time the fire was beyond the control of the sprinklers. Soon the large structure fronting 175 feet on South 18th Street and extending 125 feet along the Monongahela River front was completely involved.

A large three-story brick building at South 18th Street and Merriman’s Way, formerly occupied by a large furnace company as a factory and warehouse, was saved from serious damage by a solid brick wall in the rear next to the burning lumber plant, and by hard work on the part of the firemen keeping the flames out of this structure.

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