Unusual Origins of Fires

Unusual Origins of Fires

In the reports of fires which come weekly to FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING from the chiefs of fire departments and other sources occasionally there appear descriptions of the origins of fires that are strange and unusual. Two of the most remarkable of these came to notice recently among these reports. One was that described by Fire Marshal Edward Grenfeld of Portland, Ore. In this case, the trolley of a passing street car came in contact with a guy wire stretched to a furniture building and the heavy current from the railroad’s power travelled down the wire, passing to a rain-spout, thence to the roof of the building, to the vent pipes and arced inside the structure, causing a $50,000 loss by fire. The other fire, which is described by Chief Harry A. Christensen of the Jeffersonville, Ind., fire department, occurred in a foundry devoted to the manufacture of cars and was caused by the bursting of an incandescent electric-light globe. Under ordinary circumstances this occurrence might be innocuous, but in the present instance the operatives were in the act of spraying car bodies with liquid paint and the inflammable vapor only needed the flash of the lamp to set up an explosion while the consequent combustion was so rapid that the employees had barely time to escape with their lives. Such occurrences are of course in a way unavoidable, yet in both cases the element of carelessness was by no means absent. The guy wire, in the first instance, with proper care should never have come in contact with the trolley, and in the second, the electric globe must have required rough handling or must have been dropped in order to burst. These occurrences only tend to emphasize the fact that the greatest percentage of our fires are avoidable and are caused very largely by the human element of carelessness.

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