Two of the Many Recent School Fires
Portland. Ore., Loses One of Its Finest School Buildings by the Hand of an Incendiary, Who Is Responsible for Thirteen Fires—Lives Lost in Covington Blaze—Fires of the Week
Portland, Ore., High School Totally Destroyed
One of the oldest and best equipped school buildings in the city of Portland, Ore., that of the Washington High School at East Washington, Stark. 13th and 14th Streets, was totally destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of October 25. the blaze resulting also in the death of a member of the Portland fire department. Fire Marshal Grenfell, of the city believes that the fire was the work of an incendiary and this opinion seems to be strengthened by a story told by a resident of the neighborhood of being aroused by voices shortly before the alarm was pulled and seeing two men hastening away from the school, one apparently urging the other to greater speed. The fact that Portland has been the scene of late of a number of incendiary fires strengthens this view of the matter. In fact, it is said that this incendiary lias been responsible for the starting of twelve other fires causing the destruction of more than one million dollars in property, including a garage, lumber company, a bad fire on the water front, stable, apartment house, a church and other buildings.
The fire in the high school was discovered shortly after 12 o’clock midnight and it had then made tremendous headway and had burst through the roof of the building. City Commissioner Bigelow, who lives but a short distance from the school, was one of the first to see the blaze and ordered the alarm operators at the city hall by telephone to turn in second and third alarms. Battalion Chief Holland, in whose district the school is located, turned in a fourth alarm while running to the fire. It was well he did, for the large number of men called was needed to watch the roofs of dwellings and apartment houses and other buildings situated to the northeast of the school, upon which a continuous shower of sparks from the burning structure fell. Fortunately a light fall of rain started almost at the same time as the fire, which probably prevented many of the surrounding inflammable shingle roofs from catching fire from the burning brands. The first companies to arrive broke in all three entrances and laid their lines, but were very soon forced to retreat by the intense heat of the blaze. One company which had laid its hose up the northwest fire escape to the roof was forced to abandon the line and flee for their lives. Fireman Gabriel, who was killed, was, with a group of other firemen of Engine No. 12, making a hose connection close to the southeast corner of the building when Battalion Chief Holland ordered them to vacate the spot immediately, as one of the stone gables at the southeast corner of the building was threatening to fall.
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Portland, Ore.. High School Totally Destroyed
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All of the firemen except Gabriel ran parallel to the building, but he attempted to run away from the structure and was not speedy enough, the debris that fell out from building burying him. Lieutenants Cooper and Cahill, of the fire marshal’s office ran back to the pile of debris and pulled Gabriel out. He had been crushed to death instantly. The high school building housed fifty school rooms and there was an enrollment of 1,757 students with a faculty of 64 teachers.
The original cost was $240,000, the structure having been built in 1905, but the replacement value, it is said, will easily double that amount. The gymnasium built in 1911 and the Hawthorne Build- ing in the neighboring block were saved. The loss on the structure and its contents was estimated at $400,000.