1893 The Stairs, Son & Morrow Fire

Insured value: $70,000.00

Box: #14

August 21, 1893.

Disastrous Conflagration

William Stairs, Son & Morrow's Warehouse Destroyed.

Surrounding Property in Imminent Danger - The Loss Will Be $100,000, On Which There is About $70,000 Insurance - A Fireman Nearly Killed.

Shortly after 1 o'clock this morning Watchman Melligan employed by the board of works on Water street, saw smoke coming from the windows of Wm. Stairs, Son & Morrow's brick warehouse, 170 to 194 Lower Water street. Instead of striking an alarm he went to No. 4 steamer house on Bedford Row and told them there was a fire in the Stair's building. As soon as possible an alarm was sounded from box 14, near the corner of Hollis and Sackville streets. The whole department was soon summoned and the apparatus arrived promptly. No flame was to be seen, but smoke was pouring in dense black volumes from the upper windows. How to get at the fire was the question. A stream from the chemical was sent into the building from the lane to the south of the building. It had no effect. Meanwhile the windows were burst in and streams were directed through the front. The smoke came out of the upper windows in increasing volumes,  showing that a great combustion must be in progress, while air, when it gained access to the fire, would increase into a furnace. For half an hour there was a change in the appearance of the burning building, but suddenly masses of flames burst from the central windows of the second story. The water seemed momentarily, again, to gain the advantage, but the knowing ones saw how dangerous was the situation. The streams had been taken through the Hesslein building and were directed against the rear of the main warehouse, from the roof of a smaller house behind. The efforts of the firemen were put forth, now, in two directions, first to save the main warehouse, and secondly, to prevent the spread of the flames beyond this small rear building. An hour after the alarm was sounded the greater part of the building was a mass of flames. The fire shot up the elevator with frightful rapidity, and before long the eastern half of the slate-covered roof had fallen in. The greater part of the western half followed not long after. At 3.30 the whole of the roof had fallen in except the south-western portion and the building was a wreck. At the hour of going to press the department has the fire apparently under control [...].

While five men of No. 7 were at work on a ladder on Water street, it fell. The force of water striking the sides of the building with so sudden a shock that the ladder was thrown sideways from the building. One fireman named Rufus Keating descended upon the top of a sharp picket fence which encloses the passageway to the south of the building. Keating was terribly injured, one of the pickets penetrating the poor man's neck. He was rendered insensible and picked up for dead. At 4 o'clock the Victoria hospital says he is resting quietly, and there are hopes he may recover. John Lewin, another man on the ladder was badly hurt [...].

The origin of the conflagration is a mystery. No fires have been used in the warehouse all summer (Newspapers.com 1893).

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