Del Ray, MI Fire, May 1901


Fanned by a High Wind Fire Destroyed Nearly $1,000,000 Worth of Property.


Western Union Telegraph Company Had 100,000 Dry Cedar Poles in Their Yard, of Which Not a Vestige Remains - No Loss of Life so Far as Known.

Detroit, Mich., May 12. - Fanned by a 35-mile an hour wind, fire this afternoon swept the west bank of the Rough River, in Del Ray, a suburb tothe south of Detroit, for three-quarters of a mile, and destroyed over $800,000 worth of property. Following are the losses:

Ballbetin & Sebastian, lumber mill, $50,000, covered by insurance; Brownlee & Co., sawmill, Salt block and part of the lumber, $45,000, insurance $15,000; the Western Union Telegraph company, loss of cedar poles stored in a yard which was swept by the flames, about $600,000, insurance unknown; Corkin, Stickney & Crumm, loss of dredge, which was used up at Sallbette & Ferguson's dock, $70,000, insurance unknown, Maltby Lumber company, cedar poles and sawmill, $50,000, insurance $25,000.

The fire originated shortly after 1 o'clock in the roof of the Sallbette & Ferguson lumber mill. The mill had not been running for several months and the roof was as dry as tinder. The building was soon in ashes and the fire swept across a block to where dredge No. 5 was tied up. Despite efforts to save her, this craft was burned to the water's edge. Great embers were picked up by the wind and dropped on the roof of the Brownlee & Cone mill and Salt block and both those buildings were destroyed. Del Ray has a very small fire department, which responded with three engines and the fire boat Battle. Even the great streams of the fire boat were powerless to check the flames, which were rolling down the river bank for hundreds of feet.

From the Brownlee property the fire jumped over into the large yard which the Western Union Telegraph company uses as a storage point for their cedar telegraph poles. The yard is the distributing point for 19 states and over 100,000 poles were burned there. The fire swept through the greate yard, which comprises about eight acres, in less than two hours, but the poles blazed until far late into the night. The streams from the fire boat Battle were conetered on this yard, but they had no effect in staying the flames. The [sic] streams were turned into steam almost before they reached the burning piles of poles. The plant of the Malthy Lumber company was the last one on the river bank and it was soon destroyed, together with a large stock of cedar poles which was stored in the company's yard.

When darkness fell the glare from the burning poles illuminated the sky for miles. The firemen worked on the fire almost all night to keep it from spreading to other property, for they realized that it would simply have to burn itself out in the Western Union storage yards.

While the fire was burning, the lumber yard of G. A. Rouph & Co., in Ecorse, about a mile from Del Ray, was set on fire by sparks from a passing engine, and 500,000 feet of lumber was destroyed. The loss is about $25,000, covered by insurance.

The Butte Weekly Miner, 15 May, 1901