October 1917 Fires

October 1, 1917: Jennings, Louisiana: At 7:00 p.m., an alarm of fire was received for the four-story brick building at Market and Cary Streets known as the Hotel Mahaffay. The 12 members of the fire department, under the command of Chief Eastman, worked diligently to get four streams in operation. One thousand six hundred feet of hose were stretched, and the battle lasted for five hours and was confined to the original fire building.

October 3, 1917: Cincinnati, Ohio: A fire was discovered in an electric company building at 3:20 a.m. Chief Houston arrived to find the three upper floors of the eight-story brick building ablaze. Six Ahrens Fox engines, 13 Ahrens Fox steamers, three Seagrave ladder trucks, and a Hale water tower responded to the fire. Several difficult rescues of civilians trapped in the adjoining apartment house were made. The 189 firefighters were able to hold the flames to the top three floors of the building.

October 6, 1917: San Francisco, California: Assistant Chief Stephen Russell and two firefighters were trapped under the collapsed walls of a three-story, wood-frame Owl Lodging House located at 548 Third Street in the downtown section of the city. The chief and Firefighter Timothy Collins of Truck Co. 1 were both dead when pulled from the scorched rubble. Firefighter Joseph Allen of Engine Co. 9, also caught in the collapse, died while being transported to the hospital. Seven others were also taken to the hospital with various injuries. One firefighter required hospitalization for a year.

October 11, 1917: Wheeling, West Virginia: A passerby noticed smoke pouring from an auto sales company showroom and repair shop on Main Street between 22nd and 23rd Streets at 3:20 a.m. He pulled Alarm Box 42, which sent three Ahrens Fox steam engines, a Sylsby steamer, seven combination hose and chemical trucks, and one Boyd ladder truck. When Chief Edward Rose and his 43 members rolled in, flames were showing from front and rear windows of the third and fourth floors. With no partition walls or sprinklers, the fire in the four-story brick building proved difficult and dangerous to battle. With serious exposure problems, the firefighters worked aggressively to darken the blaze. Eight firefighters, including Chief Rose, had a close call when a fire-weakened wall began showing signs of falling. They were able to scramble to safety just as the wall collapsed onto the very spot they were working.

October 16, 1917: Oshkosh, Wisconsin: The four-story warehouse and office building of the Schmidt Brothers Trunk Company was destroyed by an early morning fire. Firefighters under the command of Fire Chief E.A. Brauer battled to contain the fire that spread to an adjacent home. The main factory building was saved. A falling wall injured the chief and two members of his staff.

October 20, 1917: Wellesley Falls, Massachusetts: The fire department responded to a fire in a mill building at 10 p.m. The transmission of Box 35 summoned Chief Doyle and 27 firefighters to the site consisting of one- and two-story buildings with employees working 24-hour shifts supplying khaki cloth for military uniforms. The flames broke out in a blower in the drying room and spread up vents to the roof. Using a combination auto, a GMC motor combination, and a horse-drawn City Service ladder truck with twin 25-gallon chemical tanks, the battle commenced. Two thousand feet of hose were pulled, and the fire was efficiently extinguished in one hour, without spreading further.

October 23, 1917: Waterville, Maine: Flames were seen coming from the roof of an icehouse on Hillside Avenue at 4:25 p.m., and the alarm was transmitted. Arriving firefighters found flames burning fiercely throughout the structure, and they had already extended to a nearby home and a barn. Writing off the initial fire building, they focused on the exposed structures. In a matter of minutes, the fire jumped the street, igniting another building filled with stored canoes, and a second alarm was transmitted. Heavy smoke banked down across the neighborhood, hiding falling electric wires. The second building to ignite quickly collapsed into the street. A blazing power pole also collapsed. In all, 900 canoes, two large icehouses, and two homes were destroyed in an hour and a half.

October 26, 1917: Boston, Massachusetts: Alarm Box 1241 was transmitted at 9:06 p.m. for a fire on the Constitution Wharf, on the north end waterfront of Boston Harbor. Deputy Chief J.O. Taber transmitted a third alarm on arrival for an advanced fire in the large sheds of the Quincy Market Cold Storage Company. The sheds covered an area of 81,000 square feet. Faced with the possible loss of more than $2 million in goods and structures, Chief of Department McDonough ordered a fourth alarm at 9:21 p.m. Two fireboats took positions and together with Engine 31 were able to stop the spreading flames from moving south from the shed to exposed structures. With numerous standpipe streams, deck guns, and other large-caliber streams, the firefighters halted the spreading flames using 15 engines, five trucks, one chemical rig, two towers, and two fireboats.