TOBACCO WAREHOUSE WIPED OUT
Specially written for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING.
Whether “night riders” or some other incendiary or (as does not seem likely) some accidental cause set fire to the tobacco warehouse of Prague & Matson at Covington, Ky., is possibly open to doubt. All outward and visible signs point to the blaze as one set by these successors of the Ku-Klux Klan, who probably were represented by several mysterious strangers who had been seen either prowling round the city and asking questions as to the storage of tobacco in the city or were riding round its environs the day before the fire broke out. There seems no doubt as to the blaze, which caused $150,000 loss, being incendiary, there was no tire left in the boilerroom on the evening of March 25. The night watchman, who claims that he was ill and had retired to the house adjoining the northeast corner of the plant, states that when he was called by his wife, flames were issuing from or very near to the engineroom, and immediately afterwards from the stemmery department. Both he and the engineer insist that it w’as impossible for the fire to have broken out accidentally at such an early hour in the morning. A telegraph operator at the Grand Central depot also states that he had just crossed the C. & O. bridge at 2:10 a. m., and at the Covington end he saw’ two horses hitched in a vacant lot under the bridge. Two men followed and watched him into his house, where he went to bed only to be roused by his wife, who told him that the warehouse was on fire. Just before the flames were generally seen three men on horseback were round in the vicinity, and a woman who lives across the alleyway from the warehouse is certain she heard footsteps in the alley just before the flames broke out. The fire started in that portion of the building which abutted on the alleyway. The flames had gained too great headway for the Covington fire department, under Chief George W. Lytle, to control, and assistance was telegraphed for from Cincinnati. Assistant Chief Hurley, with engine companies Nos. 1 and 9, under Captains Clement Beckman and Harry Miller, where rushed across the bridge and rendered yeoman’s service. Chief Lytle, of the local fire department, says that the fire was coming out from the west end of the building as he and the chemical crew were turning the corner of Russell and Fourth streets. ,a few squares from the scene. By the time they reached the burning warehouse the whole building was in flames. He then turned in a general alarm, which brought out the whole of the local fire department. By that time, owing to the inflammable nature of the contents—200,000 pounds of tobacco—and the facilities afforded the flames by the construction of the building, which was in no sense of the word fire-resistant, and seemed to have been built solely to be destroyed by fire, the whole structure was ablaze and the flames had spread to other buildings. These included a new three-story brick saloon and several dwellings and stores. As will be seen from the accompanying cut (made from a photograph kindly placed at the disposal of this journal bv the Cincinnati Engineer) a clean sweep was made, only a heap of debris and some ruined and guted buildings being left. Covington, with its population of 43,000, according to the last United States census, and its nearly 2,000 acres, has a fully paid fire department of between twenty and twenty-five men, and is equiped with two steamers, a chemical engine, four hand chemical fire-extinguishers, a hook and ladder truck, five hose wagons and over 5,000 feet of good cotton, rubber-lined and rubber hose. The Gamewell fire-alarm telegraph system is installed, with nearly seventy boxes, and over a dozen horses are in service. Nearly 250 hydrants are set, with a fire-pressure of 110 to 130 lb. It is considered worthy of a first-class underwriters’ rating, yet it abounds in wooden buildings, and the municipality permits wooden roofs to be placed on the houses. The fire department is W’ell disciplined and trained under a very competent chief. But it is weak in numbers and equipment for a city that is so much given up to tobacco storing. At least another hook and ladder truck should be added to the equipment, and another engine or two would not be out of place.
Covington had another fire on March 31. It started from an unknown cause, in Scales hardware store. The loss was total, and the building, in which were Luhn & Stevie, was badly damaged, as was the stock. The losses were as follows: E. W. Scales, stock, $20,000; Luhn & Stevie Co., stock, $10,000; Dan Cohen, stock, $2,400; G. G. Lott, building, $5,000; Henry Feltman, building, $1,000. Total, $38,400.