Cleveland, OH Lumber District Fire, Sept 1904

Bad Fire In Lumber District

$25,000 Blaze in Yards of Nicola, Stone & Myers Co.

Belief Exists That Incendiaries Are Again Busy in the Flats.

A fire which swept over one section of the lumber yards of Nicola, Stone & Myers Co., No. 754 Seneca street last night, which has much of the appearance of having incendiary in origin, caused a loss of nearly $25,000. The work of the firemen was attended with much hazard, one of them Capt. William D. Jeffers, being partly buried underneath a lumber pile.

The flames were first noticed shortly before 10 o’clock. A.W. Palmater of No. 503 Erie Street, watchman of the company had made the rounds of the yard but a short time before.

When he passed the pile in which the fire started there was no sign of flames. Five minutes later on his return to Seneca Street he saw that one of the piles was burning at the base. He quickly turned in one of the private alarms with which the yards are equipped and then hurried to the fire department alarm.

In a remarkably short time the flames had leaped from the first pile to another and were plainly visible to the fire exchange operator in the headquarters on Hill Street. A second fire alarm was immediately turned in.

A dozen or more of the great lumber piles were ablaze before the first of the companies were on the scene but a few minutes later. A strong south wind blew in a direction favorable for the spreading of the flames, as the yards are bounded on the north by the river. When the first hose was turned upon the flames they had communicated to about two dozen of the piles.

Both of the fire tugs responded to the alarm and, lying directly alongside the fire, they threw great streams of water upon the flames. On all of the other sides fire companies were also playing their streams upon the blazing piles and with such good effect that the flames were prevented from spreading further.

On the south side the yards are bounded by Cuyahoga street. Across the street there are more lumber yards, but, due to the fortunate location of the street and the precautions of the fire department in thoroughly wetting the piles a more disastrous conflagration was avoided.

The building of a cutlery manufacturing concern across the street was protected from a myriad of sparks by automatic sprinklers, which threw steady streams of water on the roof and sides of the building.

The barn and office buildings of the lumber company were threatened by the flames, but the firemen concentrated their efforts on these buildings for a time and the flames were driven back. Fifteen houses had been removed from the barn but a short time after the fire started by Plain Clothes Men Ruzicka and Hennie.

Fifteen minutes after the fire department was upon the scene, the piles of lumber began to tumble and crash about them driving the firemen back to safer positions. Many of them narrowly escaped being caught under the falling piles.

Men of engine Co. No. 2 were between two of the long rows of lumber piles when one of them unexpectedly fell toward them. The firemen withdrew just in time with the exception of Capt. Jeffers, who was acting battalion chief in the absence of Chief McGrew, Capt. Jeffers was caught underneath part of the burning lumber, but his men quickly dragged him from danger.

Although he had received severe bruises and burns upon his right leg Capt. Jeffers kept at work directing the firemen for some time afterward. The pain in his leg finally forced him to desist.

At 11 o’clock the flames had greatly subsided and but two or three of the piles still blazed. Half and hour later these had been extinguished but the firemen remained at the yards for some time afterward.

From the fact that the fire started at the base of one of the piles and one which is well sheltered it is believed that incendiaries, who had been responsible for numbers of fires in the district, were responsible for the blaze last night. There is a railroad siding running into the yards, but no trains had run over it for hours so that engine sparks could not have been the cause.

The night watchman says that not more than five minutes had elapsed from the time that he had passed the piles and had returned to find one of the ablaze. He had driven two tramps from the vicinity a short time before. Charles A. Nicola was at the yards hardly more than fifteen minutes after the fire began. He would not say that the fire was incendiary, although he did not know of anything else which may have started it.

Mr. Nicola does not believe that the loss will exceed $25,000. It is fully covered by insurance.

Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH 12 Sept 1904