Cumberland, MD Glass Factory Fire, Feb 1920
$400,000 FIRE AT WELLINGTON GLASS PLANT.
BIG FACTORY, LATELY IMPROVED AT HEAVY OUTLAY, EATEN UP BY FLAMES, WHICH ENDANGERED CITY -- INSURANCE IS $265,000.
The plant of the Wellington Glass Company was completely destroyed by fire last night. The loss is $400,000 with about $265,000 insurance. On account of having had a complete sprinkler system in the plant the insurance rate was low and for that reason the company carried heavily. The building itself was frame and old but of extensive proportions. The heavy loss is from destruction of valuable machinery, much having been added lately.
Within the past year the company expended large sums.
It is said the fire originated from defective wiring in the moulding room. The main building containing the sand blasts, blowers, furnaces, grinding, etching and decorating departments, storage and warehouse building and the office building were totally destroyed.
Seventy-five men were on night turn and were eating their lunch when the electric lights suddenly went out and then they were startled by cries of "fire." The flames were fanned by a stiff wind and the city fire departments could do little considering the combustible nature of the structures. The fire put out of commission the telephone and telegraph systems and the northern end of the city was in darkness from the electric light wires burning. The street car service was also tied up. The main building, a two-story structure, bordered on North Mechanic street for a distance of 500 feet.
Flying embers were carried for long distances and scores of people had holes burned in their Sunday clothes by bog sparks settling of them. Because of the wind carrying embers long distances, it was several hours before residents could be reassured that a general conflagration would not result.
Sparks shot high into the air and were carried by the wind as far as Cumberland street. They lighted on the roofs of houses and buildings, in yards and on trees where they at times, showed fire for several minutes.
Had the wind been blowing northward the gasoline and oil filled tanks of the Robinson Oil Company, a few feet above the glass works probably would have caught fire. A probable explosion would have spread the flames to buildings for blocks.
The fire was so hot that after the firemen would play on a spot and apparently had the flames conquered and would then direct the hose to another section, the flames would break out again like in a roaring furnace at the point it was thought the fire had been subdued.
Large numbers of people lined the vacant lots just across from the glass plant and the Baltimore & Ohio railroad tracks, and on Camp Hill.
MARK LAZARUS, who with others was standing near the burning building, pulled a bystander away from a falling wall barely in time to save him from being caught. The police had great difficulty in keeping the curious crowds back of the danger lines.
Former United States Senator GEO. I. WELLINGTON is president of the company; MERWIN McKAIG, vice-president; U. J. WAGONER, secretary and treasurer, and HARRY S. POTTER, general manager. The company made novelties and glass lighting fixtures.
The directors are GEORGE L. WELLINGTON, MERVIN McKAIG, W. WALLACE McKAIG and CHARLES G. HOLZSHU. The company had a payroll of about $8,000 a week. Seanator WELLINGTON said the loss would be considerable to the company and personally he would be a heavy loser.
The insurance is distributed among a number of agencies.
The automatic interior sprinkling system, which was installed by the company about three years ago had no effect. The system performed its function, but the fire had gotten too much headway.
The flames spread to the large building at the rear used as a storage house, and despite the efforts of the firemen to fight back the fire this structure was soon enveloped, destroying all of the contents including thirty tons of hay, used in packing glass ware, which had been put into the building only Saturday. The heat from the factory building soon ignited what little wood work that was exposed about this structure although the sides were covered with sheet iron and the roof of tin. Once inside the fire soon ate away the roof and when it collapsed clouds of black smoke caused by the burning hay, shot skyward completely hiding from view and partly smothering the flames for fully a minute. When the flames again burst forth it presented one of the most spectacular sights ever seen here.
Finding it impossible to get control of the blaze there the firemen turned their attention on the old Georges Creek roundhouse now used by the Packard Motor Company for the storing of cars and trucks. The roof became ignited but the blaze was soon quenched by cutting a hole into which was played a powerful stream of water.
It is understood that more than $80,000 in finished products was in the factory when it took fire all of which was destroyed. The embers were carried for blocks. The Wolf residence about 400 feet from the blaze on Mechanic street was ignited but soon extinguished by chemicals.
The firemen worked all night and up to noon today, before they succeeded in putting out the last spark. During the night they were served with hot coffee and doughnuts such as made the Salvation Army famous in France, by MRS. AUGUST THUSS.
The heat from the burning structures was so intense that firemen at the hose had to leave their position long enough to take off their rubber coats that were about to break into flames. It was some time before the electric current was shut down in the neighborhood of the factory site. The large box containing the transformers on the poles in front of the factory were burned away and at frequent intervals the wires, which it is understood, carried 3300 volts into the factory, sent forth great balls of blue flames when they burned away.
At one time the sidewalk in front of the building was curling with blue flames caused when the wires would fall.
An iron flag pole on top of the building which became red hot from top to bottom remained upright until almost the last bit of support was burned away. Then it fell slowly and hung dangling in the air. Burning telegraph poles fell with a crash, each one sending up great volumes of burning embers that fell back to the ground with such steadiness as to resemble a snow storm. Spectators standing about were seen to grab the backs of their necks ini pain when a spark would hit them.
In the neighborhood of 300 operators were employed at the plant.
Cumberland Evening Times Maryland 1920-03-01