Boston, MA Central Wharf Fire, Apr 1907

Miraculous Escapes From Death---Horses Burned and Shot.

Boston, April 16.---Millions of dollars worth of property was endangered to-day by a fire that broke out on Central wharf this forenoon, but owing to the fact that wind was blowing towards the harbor the firemen were able to keep the flames from spreading towards the city. The fire started in the second or third floor of the oil refining plant of Howe, French & Co., and was caused by the explosion of an oil tank. The force of the explosion forced open all the doors and windows and sheets of flames, fed by burning oil shot across the wharf, scorching the sheds of the Boston & Philadelphia Steamship Co., on the opposite side and setting fire to about a dozen drays laden with wool, cotton, shoes and general merchandise.

More than a dozen horses were literally flayed alive and it was necessary to shoot them. Several drivers and warehouse helpers were slightly burned, but up to an hour after the fire no serious injuries had been reported. It was rumored that several persons had been killed in the building, but with one exception all of the missing men soon reported to their employers.

Three firms were burned out, the Commonwealth Oil Co., the Borne-Scrymsor Co., oil refiners and the refinery of Howe, French & Co.. The property loss will be heavy, although definite figures could not be obtained.

The fact that many lives were not lost in the fire is the cause of surprise. A number of persons were working in the building when the explosion occurred and all of them had miraculous escapes in making their way to the stret [sic]. Within half a minute after the explosion the entire building was a mass of flames. The occupants fled to the street at the sound of the explosion and when they reached the thresholds of the various stores and offices, the flames were pouring out of the windows over their heads, and the wooden sign boards over the doors were blazing fiercely.

Directly across the street from the burning buildings a dozen or more drays were discharging freight on the wharves of the Boston & Philadelphia Steamship Co. Several of the drivers were scorched by the burst of flame and the front of the sheds was warped and blistered by the heat. Two of the drivers had their coats burned off their backs, but suffered only superficial burns on their faces, hands and bodies.

The horses did not fare so well as their drivers. The blast of fire enveloped them, peeling off the hide and burning the ears and tails to mere stumps. the drays caught fire. Some of them were pulled, still burning, up into Atlantic avenue, and others were left to burn until the arrival of the firemen.

One of the wagons laden with cases of shoes, was dragged into Atlantic avenue where in continued to burn directly underneath the Elevated Railroad. Finally the planking of the structure began to smoulder[sic] and it was necessary to direct a chemical stream on the blaze. The wagon load was then dumped into the street and was later extinguished by the firemen.

It is believed that the entire fire loss, including the building, a five-story brick structure, its contents, the dray loads of freight and the horses will approximate $100,000. Several firms in the immediate vicinity of the fire suffered a heavy water damage.

Murray, a man who was missing, turned up later at one of the hospitals, suffering from the slight burns. A search of the ruins failed to disclose trace that any lives had been lost.

Daily Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME 17 Apr 1907