THREE LARGE FIRES IN ROCHESTER
Specially written for Fire and Water Engineering
Besides the many other incendiary fires with which Rochester, N. Y., has of late been visited, on account of which there have been several arrests that have led to nothing, there have been two of a more destructive nature—one, in the annex of the East Side Savings bank; the other, in the International Button company’s establishment. The first (though not so in the order of time) was the last of the series of incendiary tires which had been set during that day. It started at 11 o’clock p. m., on March 19, in what twenty years ago, when it was first erected, was Rochester’s highest building. The bank, a 7-story, brick structure, is situated in the central part of the city. It was neither fireproof nor sprinklered and occupied a large area, the street in front being 60 ft. wide. On that street was laid a 12-in. main, supplied by gravity and direct pumping. On and adjoining it were set 6-in. and 8-in. double hydrants, distant 250 ft. from each other, the pressure at which is 50-lb. Hembock system and 105-11). Holly system. The fire most probably broke out on the sixth floor and must have been burning for some time before the fire department under Chief Charles Little reached the blaze, as both the sixth and seventh floors were all afire, and flames were bursting out of the windows. The apparatus dispatched to fight the fire consisted of the following pieces. Ten steam fire engines; 14 hose wagons; 4 hook and ladder trucks; water tower; salvage wagon; 2 supply wagons. Seven hydrant streams were thrown, and 19 engines, including 6 from the water tower; 6 from the Hart turret-nozzle on the hose wagon. These twenty-six streams were throwm at one time, the nozzles used being 1⅛-⅛. and 2-in. Both Hart and Eastman nozzles were employed, and of the many lengths of cotton, rubberlined hose laid not one burst. The water pressure w’as sufficient to furnish good plug-streams and to supply the engines. The total loss, as estimated by the fire department, was $40,000, although a very much higher figure was set by others. The three upper stories were wrecked, and the water damage to the floors below was considerable. The fire was a fierce one while it lasted, and involved a 2-hours’ fight, although it was under control in forty minutes. The elevatorshaft was a means of carrying the flames to the roof. The firemen, however, worked well and had the blaze under control in short order. Chief Little turned in three alarms. No serious casualties occurred; but Lieutenant Martin McMahon, of truck No. 2, fell two floors through an airshaft and broke two ribs, and Battalion Chief Creegan received a bad cut on his hand from broken glass.
Another big fire was that in the factory of the International Button company and the M. B. Shantz company, which took place on March 17. The building, which was five years old, non-fireproof and non-sprinklered, was situated in the southeastern part of the city, and had in front of it a street 30 ft. wide, on which was laid a 4-in. main of the gravity supply, with 6 double hydrants, 200 ft. distant from each other, set upon it. The fire broke out at night in the top floor at the southeast corner and originated from friction from a belt in the polishing room. It had burned some time before it was discovered, as, when the department arrived, the whole of the top floor was ablaze, and flames and smoke aplenty w’ere issuing from all the windows. There were sent to the place 6 engines, 10 hose wagons, 3 trucks and 1 salvage w’agon. Twelve engine streams were throwm at one time; the water was abundant and sufficient to supply the engines. The pressure at the hydrants was 50 lb. The nozzles used were 1⅛-⅛. and a Hart turret-nozzle being used on a hose wagon. The cotton, rubber-lined hose stood the pressure admirably. not one length bursting during all the time it was stretched. The good work of the firemen confined the flames to the top floor, and kept the roof from being burned off. The estimated loss was over $25,000. The M. B. Shantz company is the heavier loser, as water drenched a large stock of vegetable ivory in the polishing room, where the fire started. Work was carried on in that part of the plant day and night. The loss of each company was fully covered by insurance.
A third fire in Rochester broke out shortly ?tter 1 o’clock p. m. on the third floor of the Reynolds Arcade at the Rochester Four Corners, Main street, one of the landmarks of the city. The building, which was 4-story, of brick and not sprinklered, stood in the centre of the retail district and was a wellknown landmark. On the low’er floor it was occupied by the Western Union Telegraph company, a large restaurant, several cigar and jewelry stores, a grocery and a men’s furnishing store. On the second and third floors were real estate offices, the Reynolds Arcade library, the Rochester Checker & Chess club, a number of tailoring and cigar manufactories. The flames spread so rapidly that those in the restaurant and other places of busmess had barely time to escape, many without any of their belongings. The whole of the cast wing was a mass of flames when the department arrived, and the descriptions of the other fires and the operations of the firemen under Chief Little would serve equally well for this Arcade fire. The whole of the department was called out, and all its endeavors were directed towards saving the Main street side of the building, the flames from which threatened all that portion of the city bounded by Main street East and State street. The work of the firemen was seriously handicapped by the falling of the corrugated glass in the skylight, one of the firemen being badly cut. in the end, the skylight was torn down. The flames damaged the Exchange building in State street. In about two hours the fire was under control, with a loss of about 5.30,000. It is thought the blaze might have originated from defective electric wiring; but the present prevalence of incendiarism tends not to foster that idea.
Another lire, believed to be incendiary, was that in the Huyler confectionery store, a short distance from the Arcade, and yet another attempt at burning a building was that made to destroy the Salem church, close to the Second Precinct police station, while a meeting was going on, and St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church in Franklin street, also on Franklin street and within five minutes walk of the same police station. In each case the flames were discovered in time to prevent more than slight damage. At St. Joseph’s church a choir rehearsal was being held at the time
Chief Little states that the Arcade building was not sprinklered. occupied a space of 150x 200 ft. and was 4 stories high. It had been built for forty-six years. The fire was caused by defective wires, under the lower roof, and, when the department arrived, flames had involved. the third and fourth floors. Nine engines, 17 hose wagons, 6 trucks. 1 salvage wagon and two supply wagons were brought on the scene: the water tower was not used. Twenty-five 6-in., double hydrants were available, each distant 150 ft. from the other, the pressure being 50 lb. gravity and 110-120 pumping. Eight hydrant streams were thrown and 15 engine streams—a total of 23 at one time. The nozzles used were 1 1/8-in.—no special tools being employed. Cotton, rubber-lined hose to the amount of 8,500 ft. was laid, none bursting during the time of operations. The width of the street in front of the damaged property was 80 ft. on Main street and 32 on Corinthian street. The dimensions of the main were 24 in. The pressure was sufficient to furnish good plug-streams and supply the engines. The total loss on buildings and contents was $30 000, fully insured. There was no opportunity to operate the water tower. The fire had to be worked into from the roof, ends and insides. Chief Little notes that all the city newspapers grossly exaggerated the amount of losses, especially in the case of the $40,000 button works fire, that of the $20,000 East Side fire, and that of the $40,000 Arcade blaze.
The police are altogether at sea. They make arrests, but can prove nothing. Now they are watching the railway yards to see that oily waste is not pulled from the car journals for incendiary purposes, as was the case in the fires set in the two churches just mentioned. How to handle the existing conditions is the difficulty. The New York Journal of Commerce. writing in sarcastic vein, suggests that, “in view of the number of fires continually illuminating Rochester, the good people of that city could, perhaps, procure an influx of strangers who would spend money in the town if they would advertise the ‘Carnival of Arson’ liberally throughout the State and have the railroads make special rates. It might be a good chance for a committee of the State association to make a junketing trip to Rochester and again evidence the weakness of that organisation at times when strength is necessary.”
On the whole the fire department of the city has had considerably more than enough to do of late. Chief Little, his officers, men and horses have been very hard worked and have done their duty intelligently and well. They have earned the highest praise from all their fellow citizens, and by their faithful and untiring operations during a long continued and arduous campaign have saved Rochester from more than one conflagration.