Boise, ID Wheeler-Motter Merchantile Co. Fire, Feb 1910

Destructive Morning Fire Completely Wipes Out Wheeler-Motter Co.

Building and Stock Total Loss—Roof Collapses and Front of Structure Blown Into Street—Firemen Have Miraculous Escapes—Police Do Good Work

Fire which had been burning for some time before discovery and turning in of alarm at 11:55 last night, gutted the Wheeler-Motter Mercantile Company’s store at 1008-1010 West main Street, despite the combined efforts of all the fire companies in the Boise Department.

The entire stock may be a total loss, either being destroyed by the flames, or ruined by smoke and water. The loss on the stock is estimated by J.J. Van Hulen, president, treasurer and manger of the company, at $100,000. The building, which is owned by Mrs. Alice R. Tiner, is estimated worth from $75,000 to $100,000. The stock is partially covered by about $70,000 insurance.

George McIntyre, proprietor of the Elite Messenger service, discovered the flames and turned in the first alarm.

At seven minutes to 2 o’clock the entire front of the building blew out, completely burying every line of hose playing at close range on the front of the building, several members of the department escaping almost by a miracle.

Fire which had its origin in causes unknown completely destroyed the building and stock of the Wheeler-Motter company, one of the largest and best known retail dry goods houses in Boise, at an early hour this morning.

The progress of the flames was marked by special features and exhibitions of personal bravery on the part of firemen almost without precedent in the history of the department. At seven minutes to 2 o’clock, when all hope of saving the building had been practically abandoned, the entire front of the furniture structure blew out with a report which could be heard all over the city, half a dozen firemen who had been working directly under the burning wall escaping by what seemed a miracle. Three men were left on the remaining portion of the roof and when the news spread among the scattered crowds that all had escaped in safety a ringing cheer of thanksgiving went up.

While delivering a tray of food to an [illegible] at five minutes before 12 o’clock last night, George McIntyre, proprietor of the Elite Messenger service, was startled at seeing flashes of flame in the rear part of the store, at 1008-1010 West Main Street. The odor of heavy smoke was also perceptible, as it issued in curling masses from crevices of windows and doors. The messenger instantly sent in the alarm by smashing the glass in a nearby box, the broken pane slashing through the young fellow’s right wrist.

Young McIntyre set his tray down, ran to a fire alarm box close by, and after smashing through the glass in the box with his fist, turned in the alarm. He cut an artery in his right wrist on the glass, and was painfully injured, though a surgeon was immediately called and sewed up the severed artery before the boy had lost a dangerous amount of blood. Young McIntyre was greatly praised for his presence of mind and grit.

Firemen Respond Quickly.

The fire department responded quickly, No. 1 hose, steamer and chemical first reaching the scene, and No. 3 and No. 2 companied following after in quick succession.

All of the available hose was immediately connected with hydrants in the vicinity and the large steamer pumped great volumes of water in heavy streams form half a dozen nozzles directed from various points in front and rear of the store.

The fire apparently started from the rear in the basement and had gotten well under way before it was discovered, spreading rapidly to the first floor.

An enormous crowd of people gathered from all directions and watched the fire fighters beating down the flames. Chief Harry Fulton directed the operations of the department with Assistant Chief Lindsay second in command.

Displayed Great Courage.

The firemen displayed great courage in fighting the flames, many of them risking their lives by penetrating through smoke-choked doorways and chopping out the wooden flooring in order to make holes, through which the streams of water could be directed into the basement. In spite of their fast hard work, however, the blaze gained steadily, and at 1 o’clock the rear part of the first floor was burned through, the second floor gave way a few minutes later, and then the rear part of the roof fell through with a great crash. The flames sprang high into the air, lighting up the cloudy heavens.

The heat of the flames inside broke all of the windows out on the first and second floors, and smoke poured out in huge billows, almost strangling the firemen who stood on the ladders by the walls, pointing the nozzles into the red mass of seething, belching flames.