Boise, ID Shaw Block & Whittier School Fires, Oct 1903

Incendiary Fires Two Structures

Unsuccessful Attempts to Destroy Whittier School Building and the Shaw Block.

An atrocious act of incendiarism (sic) was committed last night, which, had it been successful, would have caused the destruction of the Whittier school at Eleventh and Fort, the Shaw block at Eighth and Grove, and probably much of the property in connection with the latter structure.

Three fires were set in the Watkins furniture store, coal oil being spread about and short pieces of candle spotted and lighted. One of these for started evidently much sooner than the fire fiend intended. An alarm was given and the flames quickly extinguished. An investigation disclosed the other two candles burning.

It was just a moment before this alarm that one had come in from the Whittier school. There a fire had been set in the book closet. It was extinguished after having damaged the building to the extent of probably a thousand dollars.

Purpose Of Firebug.

It seems evident that the incendiary set the fires and lighted the candles in the furniture store and then went to the school building and fired that structure. His idea seems to have been that the later fire would attract attention before any of the candles had burned down to the oil; that the department would be busy at the fire there when the flames would burst out in the block downtown. His plan would have succeeded had not one of the candles, probably by falling over, started a fire much sooner than anticipated. Tracks in the stiff mud of the basement of the school building show where the firebug entered and left the structure.

No General Alarm.

As the fire bell was just being placed in its new tower, the general public did not learn of these fires in the usual way.

Two alarms came in about the same moment, the hour being 9:50. One from the vicinity of Whittier school came by telephone. It stated the school building was afire. From police headquarters the message was sent to the station immediately and the steamer and chemical started promptly.

As the steamer was getting out the annunciator (sic) began to strike and it was found it was another alarm, this one coming from Eighth and Main.

The force was divided, the chemical going on to the school building, while the steamer responded to the other call. The latter had been sent in because fire had been discovered in the Watkins furniture store in the Shaw block. A line of hose was laid, but the fire had been extinguished by persons who had rushed to the scene and the steamer then went on to the other fire to battle with the flames there.

Discovery Of Fire.

The fire in the store was discovered by persons in the sewing machine store next door. The back room of that store is used by Mr. Watkins and a door with a transom connects it with the room in front. The people in the sewing machine place had just turned out the lights and noticed a flickering light through the transom. A hurried investigation disclosed the fact that a fire was burning in the furniture store in the doorway leading from the main store into the room back of the sewing machine room. An alarm was sounded and the flames were put out by those who rushed to the scene.

Smelled Kerosene.

Those who extinguished the fire smelled kerosene. An investigation brought to light not only the fact that the fire had been started with oil but that two other fires had been set. In the northwest corner of the main room-at the back-behind a lot of furniture, arrangements had been made for firing the place. Kerosene had been poured on the floor and some excelsior had been put down, also sprinkled with the oil. Near by stood two bottles that had contained oil.