TWO BOYS START COSTLY STAMFORD LUMBER FIRE
Two 10-year-old boys admitted starting a spectacular fire in Stamford, Conn., on the night of November 6, 1950, that razed a lumber yard, damaged an adjoining 4-story distilling plant, destroyed three houses and partially burned three others, with loss estimated by Chief Victor Veit of Stamford at $250,000.
The boys took eight railroad flares and dynamite caps from a New Haven Railroad yard nearby and about 5:30 P.M. set off the flares and caps on the dock of the Diamond Match Co. A company employe ordered the boys to throw the flares into the water and then tried to extinguish a small fire that burned a hole in the planking. He is reported to have overlooked a burning flare that had become wedged in the planking and this, it is believed, touched off the fire that gave ten companies of firemen answering the city’s first general alarm in years an all night battle.
Despite efforts of plant workers to control the fire’s start with band extinguishers, it spread on a south-east wind into the match company’s warehouse located on Meadow street between it and the East Branch of Stamford Harbor. The warehouse, inside and outside, lumber storage, and dock, were quickly involved and from there the fire jumped Meadow street to ignite a number of frame dwellings and outbuildings to the east. At the same time the roaring flames threatened the large concrete and brick Esbeco Distilling Co. plant which housed, among other flammables, a vat containing 5,000 gallons of raw alcohol. Had this tank ignited, the entire neighborhood, consisting of about 30 old wooden houses, warehouses, another lumber yard, industrial structures and railroad freight yards might have been wiped out, according to Chief Veit.
Despite the fact that four lines were used to wet down the distilling plant, fire entered the top floor on the south side where it was controlled by firemen. Meanwhile three of the exposed houses less than 100 feet from the burning lumber storage, across Meadow street were soon fully involved, and several others were burning as occupants fled the scene. Families in other houses threatened with destruction evacuated the premises as firemen, responding on mutual aid calls, struggled to confine the fire, which was consuming everything in its path, including fences, an automobile, and power and light and telephone poles and wires.
The first alarm at 5:32 P.M., brought Stamford Companies 1 and 2 to the scene. At 5:33 Company 3 responded, when someone pulled a box. At 5:38 Chief Veit turned in a second alarm, ordering out all off-shift men, and at 5:55 with the fire gaining headway, the 9-9-9 was sounded, bringing units of the Springdale, Glenbrook, Belltown, Long Ridge, Turn-of-River, Cos Cob, Sound Beach, Darien and Greenwich Fire Departments, and the Springdale ambulance. Apparatus from New Canaan in turn moved into Springdale’s station and crews from East Portchester located in Greenwich.
Twenty-two lines of 2 1/2-in. hose, along with one line of 1 1/2-in. were operated on the fire and to wet down exposures. The Cettman & Judd lumber yard across the canal was cooled as parts of its buildings and storage started smoking. Firemen took suction from a bay inlet and from hydrants over a wide area on both sides of the inlet. The warehouse, which covered half a city block, and most of its stock of fine lumber, were consumed, but some lumber, adjoining the Esbeco plant, was salvaged.
Thirteen city firemen, a member of the Springdale volunteer department, and a civilian, were injured or overcome fighting the blaze. At various times fire fighters were endangered by falling power wires until line crews cut off the current. Power on the New Haven’s 11,000-volt service was ordered off.
Burning embers, carried on the strong wind, ignited the roof of a two-story frame house a quarter of a mile away but this was extinguished by members of Chemical 1, Stamford, and the No. 2 Springfield pumper. During this period a false alarm brought a crew to State street.