Miami, FL Kress Building Fire, Jan 1918

Fire In The Business Section Is Confined To The Kress Building

Stubborn Defense Against The Flames Averts What Seemed To Be a Very Much Greater Calamity.

Compliment The Firemen

Estimate Of At Least Fifty Thousand Dollars Damage To The Building And Stock-Scenes And Incidents.

That the central business section on Miami did not suffer serious loss yesterday evening was due to the indefatigable work of the fire department under personal direction of Chief W.R. Coleman, and such intelligent assistance as was volunteered by military men on furlough in the city, naval officers, Boy Scouts and others in keeping the streets clear and handling the crowds. Through all the worst of what threatened to be a serious conflagration, when smoke was so dense as to almost suffocate and flames leaped across Twelfth street, threatening buildings on the opposite side, the head of the fire department directed operations against the fiery elements with a coolness which, considering the circumstances, won for him man plaudits from the throng of spectators. It was conceded that whatever deficiency of equipment and men there may be in the fire department, the test yesterday developed an ability to do the best with the facilities at hand, and capticus (sic) criticism has been lost sight of in the universal gratification that Miami escaped a tremendous loss to its business section in the midst of a very active tourist season.

Fire late yesterday afternoon was discovered in the third story of the S.H. Kress & Co. store, which caused a loss of about $50,000 to the building and stock at 324 and 326 Twelfth St. For a time the flames looked so threatening that many thought the entire business section of the city would be destroyed, but the efficient work of the fire department kept the flames confined to the third story of the Kress building.

The fire started in some excelsior and light material in the packing room on the third floor of the building and spread with such rapidity the fire department was unable to cope with the situation with extinguishers, and before the hose could be put to work, the entire third floor was in flames. The origin of the fire is a mystery.

Firemen under the direction of Chief Coleman worked for more than one hour and a half on fire before it was under control, and the fact that the blaze was confined to the one floor is considered remarkable by expert fire fighters from other cities who are visiting the city and who were among the spectators.

Chief Coleman remained perfectly cool with his small force of thirty men, and deserves commendation. The chief’s greatest fear, he said last night, was that the flames from the third floor might sweep through to the adjoining windows of the big five-story building of William Burdine’s Sons Company, which adjoins the Kress building on the west, but the excellent work of the aerial truck prevented this.

Fire Wall and Sprinkler

An eighteen inch fire wall lies between the Kress structure and the Burdine building, which afforded protection in this respect, while an automatic sprinkler in the latter structure prevented the fire from entering through the east windows into the law offices of Shutts, Smith & Bowen, who occupy the entire top floor of the Burdine structure. This sprinkler device worked to perfection, according to R.B. Burdine, last night, and that firm was not damaged in the least from fire and business will be resumed today as usual. Mr. Burdine said the only loss was from water on the first floor.

In commenting on the fire last night, Mr. Burdine took occasion to praise the local fire department which he says, is too small for this city, and some attention to protection is essential before a more serious fire breaks out and does great damage. Mr. Burdine said that the city has outgrown the present fire department, which is in need of enlargement, both in men and apparatus.

Yesterday’s fire was the forerunner of three alarms that came in during the night.