THREE ALARM CHURCH FIRE DESTROYS OLD BOSTON EDIFICE
Fifty-Year-Old Building of Roxbury Church Succumbs to Fire—Firemen in Danger from Slate Roof Burnings of the Week
A CHURCH fire which for a time threatened to get beyond control but which reinforcements brought up on a third alarm by Chief Daniel F. Sennott, of the Boston fire department, soon brought under control, took place on July 20, when the Ruggles Street Baptist Church was destroyed in a blaze originating, it is thought, from defective wiring. The first alarm apparatus found the fire well advanced and the interior practically all involved. They were scarcely more than started in their fight when a heavy truck drove over the hose line of Engine 42, and broke off the connection, rendering the apparatus for a time useless. A third alarm by the chief brought needed further apparatus, and from that time the fight against the spread of the flames to other buildings in the vicinity was successful.
Many times the firemen were in danger from the heavy portions of the slate roof, which showered upon them as they fought the flames. One of these struck Lieut. George P. Smith, of Engine 37, badly cutting his right hand. Heavy copper gutters, their support burned away, threatened to fall momentarily. Toward the end of the fire the entire roof front on Ruggles street smashed to the street, but not before the firemen had been withdrawn.
Despite all danger and enduring severe punishment from heat and smoke the hosemen stuck to the ladder top posts at the windows and directed streams into the auditorium from which flames were shooting through, and above the roof 50 feet.
Three women present in the church vestry were unaware that the building was on fire, discovery being made by a man who ran into the church to ascertain the cause of smoke and then rang in an alarm from the box at the Asa Gray Primary school building.
Air for the organ was pumped by electricity. About five years ago a fire originated near the organ from defective wiring and the same cause was thought to have caused the fire of July 20. The Rev. J. Harrison Thompson, pastor of the congregation, left the office in a new building adjoining the church, at 4 o’clock, two hours before the discovery. The flames had gained such headway that it was thought it ignited hours earlier.
Volunteers lent willing hands with hose and ladders at the outset. Chief Sennott discovered one volunteer high up on a ladder in a danger spot and had him come down, after which all spectators were kept back from the Ruggles street front and the rear wall facing the school building.
The fire was at its hottest over the organ loft in the church rear at its inception. Because of the presence of copper, sulphur and other substances in the roof, vivid yellow smoke and brilliant green flames lent their colors to the blaze. The loss was estimated at about $125,000.
Assistant Chief Henry A. Fox and Deputy Chief Albert J. Caulfield assisted Chief Sennott in directing the firemen. Fox was on a day off, but responded on the third alarm. When the brick portion of the church where the pulpit and organ were situated began to bulge hosemen were ordered away from the walls and a deck pipe was brought into play at this point.
Among those who watched the work of the firemen was the pastor of the church, the Rev. J. Harrison Thompson. The loss was estimated at $150,000. The building was of frame construction except for brick in the rear section. It was owned by the Boston Baptist Social Union and had a seating capacity of 1100 persons.