Chicago, IL Grain Elevator Fire, Aug 1897

SEVEN LIVES LOST.

FATAL FIRE IN A CHICAGO GRAIN ELEVATOR.

A TERRIFIC EXPLOSION.

SCATTERED FIRE ALL OVER THE STRUCTURE -- THREE FIREMEN KILLED OUTRIGHT AND ONE MAY NOT SURVIVE HIS INJURIES -- THEY WERE BURIED UNDER A FALLING WALL.

Chicago, Aug. 5. -- Seven and probably eight lives were lost in an explosion which took place this evening during a fire in the northwestern grain elevator at Cook and West Water Streets. Three of the dead are firemen -- the body of another fireman is thought to be buried in the ruins of the elevator -- and three people were blown into the Chicago River. From the force with which the explosion swept the spot on which they were standing it is certain that they must have been instantly killed. Either the bursting of a boiler of the explosion of mill dust caused the awful havoc.
The three firemen who were killed by the falling walls of the elevator were:
JACOB J. SCHNUR.
JOHN J. COOGAN.
JACOB S. STRAMER.
THOMAS MONOHAN, Swenie's driver.
JOHN HAMPZ, was watching fire when struck by a timber.
The injured:
CHARLES H. CONWAY, fireman, burned about face and hands and body crushed; may die.
Chief DENNIS SWENIE, right foot crushed, left arm wrenched and painfully burned.
Fire Marshal CHAMPION, burned about face.
Lieutenant SMITH, both legs crushed.
Lieutenant W. H. BARTLETT, leg crushed.
Assistant Engineer BENJAMIN BLANCHARD, badly bruised.
JOHN F. SMITH, injured by debris.
WILLIAM McGUIRE, 15 years old, both legs crushed.
THOMAS ENGLE, pipeman, cut on face and hands and internally injured.
IGNATIUS BOND, cut by falling glass.
Captain JOHN J. EVANS, struck by debris and rendered unconscioius; serious.
WILLIAM HANLEY, pipeman, cut in head.
WILLIAM THOMPSON, hit by falling glass.
Besides these, dozens of firemen and passers-by were more or less cut and bruised by glass and flying debris.
The origin of the blaze is believed to have been in the vicinity of the boiler house. Accumulated dust as dry and inflammable as gunpowder that had been piling up for years formed ready means for the fire. It spread with great rapidity and then came a terrific explosion, completing the work of scattering the fire throughout the entire structure.
Just as the firemen were getting into position for advantageous work and nearly all the members of engine company No. 3 were mounting ladders and bringing leads of hose to play on the interior from the upper windows, there came a roar that could be heard for half a mile, the roof was raised high in the air and the walls came down with a crash. The force of the explosion was so great that the eastern wall was hurled into the river, the west wall was tumbled down upon the heads of the men below and the roof was torn into mighty fragments and distributed for blocks around. Every window in the vicinity of the elevator was shattered by the concussion, dozens of persons were struck by flying debris and several small fires resulted from falling timbers that were still aflame. At Jefferson Street and Carroll Avenue, many blocks distant, great burning masses of wreckage fell upon four wagons loaded with hay and set them in flames.
The fire was most difficult to control, as the elevator was surrounded by a number of small frame buildings, which were continually catching fire. The total loss is estimated at $300,000, which is fully covered by insurance.

Titusville Morning Herald Pennsylvania 1897-08-06