Jacksonville, FL Fire, May 1901
TINY PIECE OF WIRE CAUSED GREAT FIRE
The following is from a special correspondent who left Jacksonville early in the evening and at a time when excitement was at its highest: ?Yulee Fla May 3 - Fifteen million dollars worth of property gone up in smoke and ten thousand people made homeless was the result of a fire in Jacksonville today. the entire business section of the city is in ashes and numerous lives have been lost, and the end is not yet, as the fire is still burning furiously, defying the assaults of water, dynamite and the supreme efforts of the entire population aided by the fire departments of numerous sister cities.
Such is the sad story of destruction caused by the displacement of a bit of innocent looking wire which accidentally got into the shredding machine of the American Fiber Company at the corner of Davis and Union streets. the fire started between the hours of 12 and 1 p m, and owing to this fact the loss of life will be comparatively small. The fiber factory was a wooden shell full of inflammable material and in a few moments was a mass of flames.
The wind which was already blowing strong from the southwest seemed to be possessed with a sudden fury and soon was carrying destructive embers all through the doomed city, the fairest portion of which lay right before the wind.
"Some delay was experienced in getting the alarm, and to add to the tragedy of fateful accidents, the engine at the waterworks suffered a mishap and nothing more than ordinary pressure could be obtained. By this time the flames had swept to the Boston store, a huge furniture establishment belonging to W.W.CLEVELAND & SON, who were also proprietors of the fiber factory. It aped across Davis street and took a course right through a section where block after block of frame buildings mostly occupied [illegible] een ??ected.
FIREMEN LOSE GRIP "Here is where the fire department lost its grip, as simultaneously in half a dozen places, some of them six blocks, were seen to burst out in flames. the wind rising higher and higher mowed down whole rows of buildings and attracted at first a crowd of curious sightseers who seemed to be fascinated by the sight until they learned that their residences, too, were in danger of total destruction. It took just four hours doe that resistless sea of flames to consume every building for a space of six to eight blocks wide from Davis street near where it started to the Hogan creek viaduct, a distance of over one and one-half miles and then not satisfied with eating the heart of the residential thoroughfare of trade destroying everything in what was the original incorporation of Jacksonville. The government building, which caught fire at one time but was saved, is the only pretentious building left standing and it may go before morning.
From the humble homes of the poor to the elegant residences of the well-to-do was but a short journey for the flames. After passing Bridge street the first house to succumb to the flames was the elegant mansion of former COUNCILMAN STARSELL. Then it seemed that wherever there happened to be a shingle roof on a building erected before the fire limits were extended, the flying embers found lodgment. Blocks away from the main fire other fires would break out. Right into the heart of the town the flames swept. The Windsor Hotel and the St. James both of which are among the finest winter hotels in the south were consumed in an incredibly short time. The opera house followed next and then row upon row of elegant residences were offered up to the insatiable fire fiend.