THE CONFLAGRATION IN DUBLIN
In the conflagration in the city of Dublin, Ireland, during the recent disturbances there the Dublin fire department, of which Chief Thomas P. Purcell is chief officer, had an experience which he feels certain is unique in the history of fire brigades. The illustrations herewith were courteously furnished by Chief Purcell and the description of the great fire and the work of the department is from a communication from the chief to the Editor of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING. The brigade did valiant work in stopping the fires as long as it was humanly possible to do so. Then when the military rings closed in, fighting from house to house to the affected centres and these districts became real battle grounds, swept by rifle fire, shot and shell, the chief had to keep his men under cover and for a portion of two days and nights they could only sec the flames of the burning district. Four firemen were injured by the collapse of buildings while working. All communication by wire, rail and road with the outer world was cut off. Sniping and volley firing from rifles and machine guns was kept up night and day and all fire stations were damaged by bullets in many places. An estimate by Chief Purcell placed the approximate value of the buildings destroyed by the fires on the east and west sides of the Sackville street area at $5,500,000, and a very rough approximation of the loss in stock is given at $3,780,000, but he stated that the total property loss may never be accurately ascertained. Insurance companies refused to meet losses and the Government promised to compensate to some extent. The disturbances lasted acute for eight days and nights and during that time there was a succession of fires. The total number of buildings involved was 179, and the total area burned on the east side of the Sackville street district was 27,000 square yards and included two whole blocks and parts of two others. On the west side of Sackville street the area destroyed was 34,000 square yards in extent and included the general post-office. Outside of these two principal areas there were fires in Harcourt street, on Usher’s quay and around the corner in Bridge street. Another fire area outside the Sackville street district was one including the ancient Linen Hall Barracks, recently the seat of the Civic Exhibition. This place was twice on fire. It is stated that on the fourth day it was ignited by a wooden structure, erected at the time of the Civic Exhibition, being set on fire. This building contained large stores of oils and chemicals. The first fires in connection with the disturbances occurred on Monday. When the firemen received the first call at 3.58 p. m., it was from the ordnance department at Island Bridge and stated there was a fire in tin’ Magazine in Phoenix Park. A detachment was sent from the Thomas street station with a motor engine. One section of the Magazine, containing large quantities of small arms and ammunition, was more or less destroyed, but the remainder was saved. In the meantime firemen with another motor engine were held up by rifles at a barricade and had to turn back. The first fire call for a fire in Sackville street was about 10 p. m., the fire being in a shoe company’s shop and it was extinguished. Later that night there was another fire in Sackville street, and next day there were three fires. While working at a fire at the Lawrence premises, about half of which was saved, fire volleying and firing was going on at the General Post Office and Lawrence’s was in the line of fire. While the brigade was at work a man and a woman were shot beside the engine at a street corner and a man was shot beside the engine driver at another point. There were more fires on Wednesday, including one at the North Wall among a pile of jute, but as the bridges were up the brigade was unable to reach it. There were fires on Thursday morning. The great fire began that day at 12:32 p. m., when the department was notified of fire in the “Irish Times” reserve printing office in Abbey street. That area was the scene of heavy rifle firing and Chief Purcell ordered his men back. The fire spread very rapidly owing to a barrier of furniture and bales of paper that had been p’aced across the street. The barrier extended to Wynn’s Hotel and it carried the fire straight across to that side. That was where the great fire began. Heavy cannonading was going on here and the district was being shelled by the military. By 2.52 p. m. the fire had leached Sackville place and then it swept along and soon the block was doomed. The fire burned all night in a northerly direction, and on Friday Chief Purcell made another brave effort to stop it with the Tara street section of firemen, and they succeeded in extinguishing a blaze in a restaurant that threatened to ignite a large warehouse. “Unfortunately,” said Chief Purcell, “owing to the sniping that was going on in front I could not risk the men’s lives in the open and was prevented from doing what I should have wished to do.” At 3.40 p. m., Saturday, the commanding officer of the troops in Dublin sent a despatch tc Chief Purcell saying they would now cease military operations and that as matters in the city were getting normal he might make an effort to stop the Sackville and Abbey street fires. Chief Purcell immediately turned out his force and two motor engines were started on one side of O’Connell bridge, lifting water from the river Liffey with four lines of delivery hose. Six other lines of hose from hydrants were soon employed and did effective work on the buildings not already destroyed. Chief Purcell is quoted as saying: “We were making excellent progress towards stopping the fire when the buPets began to fly amongst us. I had two men up on fire escapes and bullets struck their ladders. The engines were shot at from the direction of Westmoreland street and they were struck by bullets which pierced the mudguards and tires.” Chief Purcell was again obliged to call the men off tc take cover while the engines and hose were left in the street and the men were rushed in batches in motor ambulances to their stations. Fires were then seen in every direction from the west, and later a warehouse and other buildings which were burning threatened the destruction of the Pro-Cathedral. Chief Purcell then called for four volunteers from among the brigade and four men instantly came forward and succeeded in checking and stopping the fire, insuring the safety of the remainder of the north side of Earl street, including the Cathedral. At S p, m., Saturday, the chief had a call from the Jervis street hospital that the fires were spreading closely in that direction and that if the fire could not be stopped arrangements would have to be made to remove the patients. To the credit of the firemen they one and all s id they would save the hospital, and under a rain of bullets, the engines and other apparatus were recovered from O’Connell bridge and the firemen started their big fight against the flames. The chief then called for the assistance of available men and apparatus from Power’s distillery and Guinness’ brewery and both sections responded. The firemen worked all Saturday night and stopped the fire at the hospital and where it was possible to fight it in this section. In other directions, since the department had been prevented from working since Saturday afternoon, fires had multiplied and increased so that the department’s work now consisted in cutting off sections and preventing their further spread, in which it succeeded and by Sunday morning had the fire completely under control.
Firemen’s memorial services were held recently at the following Massachusetts cities and towns: Brockton. Medford, Lynn, Malden, Braintree, Quincy, Melrose, Farmingham, Watertown, New’buryport, Waltham and Amesbury.