Wharf Fire in Boston
The issue of FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING for June 4 contained an account of three three-alarm fires that occurred in Boston simultaneously. These fires were followed a few days afterwards by a conflagration in the wharf and railroad yards of Charlestown along the Mystic river that proved to be most serious. An area 400 by 800 feet was burned, which included lumber yards, railroad repair shops and freight cars, with a loss of $275,000, and a wider conflagration was threatened by the danger of the fire’s extending across the river into large congested areas. In fact, half a mile away every possible means of fire extinguishment had to be brought into service to prevent the spread of fires. One of the views shows a small building that caught fire and burned, although it was located nearly two thousand feet from the main conflagration. The block of wooden tenements in the rear was saved only by the effort and daring of a hundred marines who formed a bucket brigade. Similarly another lumber yard a little nearer the conflagration was threatened by a dozen incipient fires which were put out by employes who used buckets of water and small hose. The principal fire apparatus of Boston was meanwhile occupied in fighting the main conflagration and success there was secured mainly by the effectiveness of three fire boats. These boats could obtain favorable locations and they were able to deliver 30 effective fire streams. The artificial lake shown in the photo by the flooded tracks illustrates the amount of water that was put on this fire. Besides the advantages of having fire boats to stop a large fire of this sort another lesson was made evident: namely, a conflagration cannot be regarded as out for some hours after it is under control. In this particular instance six hours after the main fire was supposed to be out another fire started 50 yards away. The department had to be recalled and before the fire was controlled $25,000 aditional damage had been done. Claims were afterwards made that the second fire was dissociated from the first and that both were of incendiary origin. Without doubt, however, the second tire was caused by the first and that in turn could easily have started from any one of many causes. Conditions could have hardly been set better for a bad fire: A large area, without fences, crossed by numerous railroad tracks, open to pedestrians and smoking could not be prohibited; the area occupied by sheds and many piles of lumber; no system of hydrant protection within the area; thus, construction, occupancy, fire protection, and general order the four important elements that govern the quality of all fire risks —being favorable a conflagration was the natural order of events, and in other cities where like conditions exist a repetition of this fire may be expected and very likely with greater loss of property.
Birmingham, Ala., has passed unanimously a shingle roof ordinance, prohibiting the use of anything but fireproof material on the roofs. No more than 20 per cent, of the present roof may be repaired with the present combustible materials. The ordinance also increases the fire limits to the city limits. The recent conflagrations in Augusta, Meridian and Houston were all shingle roof fires, and the warning is evidently being heeded in the South.