TWO FIRES IN FIFTEEN HOURS IN BIG WAREHOUSE BUILDING
Second Fire in Pittsburgh, Pa., Structure Completes Work of First— $100,000 Loss—Burnings of the Week
TWO fires occurring in the same building within a period of fifteen hours, both from all indications starting from some unknown cause, the first fire calling for two alarms and the second fire calling for three alarms completely destroyed the large four story brick building occupied by the McFarland Transfer and Distributing Company as a general storage warehouse located at the foot of Galveston Avenue, North Side, near the Allegheny River at the point where the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers meet, the first fire taking place on Tuesday afternoon and the second fire on Wednesday morning, December 1st and 2nd, the second fire proving to be one of the most spectacular fires that has visited the North Side section of the city for a number of years, causing a total loss estimated at $100,000 to buildings and contents.
The first fire broke out shortly after two o’clock on Tuesday afternoon on the fourth floor of the rear building, a four story brick structure, which is separated from the main building a four story brick structure facing on Galveston Avenue the two structure being joined by a two story brick built between the two main buildings.
Upon the arrival of the first alarm fire companies the fire was found raging fiercely on the fourth or top floor which was packed to the roof with furniture and other merchandise, heavy clouds of smoke pouring from the structure on all sides hampering the firemen in reaching the seat of the fire.
The first alarm at 2:18 p. m. from Station 39, about one thousand feet from the fire, brought Engine Companies No. 41, 44, 46 and 47 and Truck Company No. 47 to the scene of the fire, in command of Captain William Hutchinson, acting Chief of the Seventh Battalion.
After a half hour’s hard work on the part of the first alarm companies, seeing that the fire was gaining, acting Chief Hutchinson at 2:50 p. m. sent in the second alarm which was answered by Engine Companies No. 43, 42 and 45 and Truck Company No. 46, Sixth Battalion Chief Nicholas Phelan, and Chief of Department M. F. Shanahan.
Upon his arrival with the second alarm companies, Chief Shanahan, learning that the second floor of the burning building was loaded with ten carloads of alcohol in barrels, steel drums and cans ordered his men out of the burning building to a safe distance, fearing that the fire would reach the alcohol and cause an explosion. The firemen, under the direction of Chief Shanahan, who fought the fire from all angles and points of advantage, succeeded however, in keeping the fire confined to the top floor and the roof which were entirely destroyed, the fire not getting below the floor on which it started.
In extinguishing the fire seven engine and pumper streams were used, 6600 feet of 2 1/2 inch and 100 feet of one inch lead line hose all cotton rubber lined and 260 feet of ladders.
Twelve pieces of fire apparatus all motor driven and tractor drawn were in service at the fire as follows.
The duration of the fire was seven hours and fifty-five minutes, the fire being struck out at 10:13 p. m., by acting battalion Chief Hutchinson. When the last fire company left the scene of the fire to return to their quarters not a spark or a bit of smoke of any kind could be seen and from all indications had been completely extinguished.
The second fire which completed the destruction of the entire warehouse buildings, broke out shortly before six o’clock on Wednesday morning under mysterious circumstances, approximately seven hours after the firemen had left the first fire. It took hard and quick work on the part of thirteen engine companies, one hose company and three truck companies, called to the fire on three alarms and a special call to keep the fire confined to the building in which it originated.
The first alarm at 5:57 a. m., from Station 39, the same station sent in for the first fire, was responded to by Engine Companies No. 41, 44, 46 and 47 and Truck Company No. 47, in command of Battalion Chief Nicholas Phelan of the Sixth Battalion filling in for the commanding officer of the Seventh Battalion, who was out at a church fire at Station 318.
Immediately upon the arrival of the first alarm companies, the firemen under the command of Chief Phelan made their way into the burning building and up the stairway to the second and third floors where they found the flames raging fiercely up the elevator shaft in the rear of the front building and in the area way between the main and rear buildings, the fire evidently from all indications having started on the second floor of the main structure, near the elevator shaft. The flames, gaining rapid headway, soon drove the firemen back out of the building to the street. Seeing that the fire was more than the first alarm companies could handle, Chief Phelan sent in the second alarm at 6:10 a. m., from Station 39, which alarm was answered by Engine Companies No. 43, 42 and 45 and Truck Company No. 46, Chief of Department M. F. Shanahan and Deputy Chief Frank C. Loxterman.
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Two Fires in Pittsburgh Warehouse
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The third alarm and a special call sent in at 6:33 a. m., under the direction of Chief Shanahan brought to the scene of the fire, Engine Companies No. 1, 7, 33, 48, 49, 50, Hose Company No. 52 and Truck Company No. 45.
Fanned by a brisk wind from the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers the flames quickly spread throughout the entire building and within three-quarters of an hour it was entirely involved.
At least thirty separate and distinct explosions occurred when large quantities of alcohol, paints and oils ignited and exploded, the burning alcohol going up into the heavens, spreading out and coming down into the streets among the fire-fighters like a rain of liquid fire. Ope heavy explosion while the fire was at its height threw parts of brass and iron beds, red hot, which were stored in the building high in the air, some of which fell into the street among the firemen.
At 7:15 a. m. the west or rear wall of the building fell outward and tons of brick and wreckage Jell on five automobile trucks loaded with 200 tanks of ammonia and onto two wagons that had been placed in an empty lot in the rear of the building.
About fifteen minutes later the south wall buckled and fell. About ten firemen who were standing on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks near the south wall directing streams into the burning building started to run when the bricks started to fall. Several firemen were struck by bricks but remained on duty. Within two hours after the fire started most of the walls had collapsed and the contents of the building had crashed through to the basement a mass of fire.
The crew of Truck No. 47, who were working on the roof of a one story building adjoining the main building, directing a stream into the center of the fire had a narrow escape from death or serious injury when a large illuminated electric sign board on the roof of the main warehouse facing Galveston Avenue, began to lean outward and fell, pushing the south wall of the main building out onto the roof of the one story building where the Truck crew had just a moment before been standing, crushing the one story building to the ground. Lieut. McDermott had just ordered the crew to a place of safety when the crash took place.
Chief Shanahan ordered the east or front wall of the building torn down while the fire was in progress as it threatened to topple into the street at any moment. Powerful high pressure streams from the deluge wagon were centered on the dangerous wall and it soon crashed to the ground.
Chief Surgeon Daniel E. Sable and Thomas Clark, his assistant, responded to the second alarm and established an emergency hospital in a patrol wagon.
Chief Shanahan and some other firemen were standing on the front wall which was broken off at the second floor of the structure when it was decided to cut the cable to permit the firemen to fight the fire to better advantage. As the cable snapped like a whip, one end of it struck a fireman lacerating his forehead. This was the only accident to firemen on duty at the fire.
The large deluge combination water tower and turret wagon of Engine Company No. 1 answering on the third alarm performed an effective piece of fire-fighting in front of the burning building. Shortly after being placed into service the two powerful turret streams and the water tower stream soon drove the fire back into the burning building and later knocked down portions of the front wall which were in a dangerous condition. A 1 1/2 inch stream was used on the tower nozzle and one and seven-sixteenth streams used from both of the turrets. Pressure was furnished through eight lines of hose, one 2 1/2 inch line from Engine No. 1 at 240 pounds pump pressure and one 2 1/2 inch line from Pumper No. 41 at 160 pounds pump pressure both lines being siamesed into a three inch line into the wagon. One 2 1/2 inch line from Pumper No. 7 at 200 pounds pump pressure and one 2 1/2 inch line from Engine No. 47 at 220 pounds pump pressure both of these lines being siamesed into a three inch line into the wagon and four single 2 1/2 inch lines connected to the wagon, one from Pumper No. 33 at 250 pounds pump pressure, one from Engine No. 1 at 240 pounds pump pressure, one from Engine No. 44 at 180 pounds pump pressure and one from Pumper No. 41 at 160 pounds pump pressure.
Before the crew of the wagon could get their apparatus into service they had to move a lumber pile which was piled up on Galveston Avenue with other building material being used in the construction of the Standard Sanitary Companies new warehouse adjoining the burning building on the north.
In extinguishing the fire seventeen engine and pumper streams were used including the water tower and two turret streams from the deluge wagon, 100 feet of 3 inch hose, 11,150 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and 250 feet of 1 inch lead line hose all cotton rubber lined and 330 feet of ladders. Shut off nozzles with 1 1/8 and 1 1/4 tips were used on all street lines.
Twenty-one pieces of fire apparatus all motor driven and tractor drawn were in service at the second fire as follows:
Approximately ten Ludlow fire hydrants with 4 1/2-inch single and doubble outlets were available for use at the fire with pressures on hydrants ranging from 85 to 100 pounds which furnished the firemen with a good supply of water with which to fight the fire.
Owing to the distance of some of the fire hydrants from the fire, Engine Company No 45 and Hose Company No. 52 had to double up their hose into one line 1450 feet long in order to reach the fire, the line being connected to Engine No. 1. Six sections of 2 1/2-inch hose burst during the fire.
The duration of the fire was thirteen hours and twenty minutes being struck out at 5:23 p. m. A detail of firemen were kept on duty with several streams for a couple of days playing on the ruins to guard against any fresh outbreak of the flames.
The burned building which fronted on Galveston Avenue, 150 feet and extended back a distance of 150 feet to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad yards was an old brick structure built many years ago with wooden joists and floors supported on structural steel beams and columns which had no protection of any kind against fire. The building was formerly used as a factory building and in later years was turned into a storage warehouse. The building had no private fire protection of any kind. Several different business concerns had storage space in the building.
A considerable amount of carbide in cans which was stored in a small one-story concrete building located at the end of a loading platform at the rear of the burning building was removed from the floor to a place of safety by firemen when water from the streams pouring into the burning structure began to flow into the building in which the carbide was stored.