Willimansett, MA Springfield Facing Co Fire, Mar 1910



Will Amount to About $15,000---Fire Wall Saves Half the Plant.

The fire at the plant of the Springfield facing company on North Chicopee street, Willimansett, Tuesday night, ruined the machinery in one-half the main mill and destroyed one large shed, causing a loss of about $15,000. The brick fire wall running across the main building, which is two stories high and of brick, proved impervious to the fire, and justified its name. The steel doors in this wall were closed, as they should have been, and nothing beyond the wall was in any way damaged. The floors in the burned half and the roof are standing, but the iron girders under the concrete floors were warped by the heat and the windows and other finishing materials were unavoidably burned. The machines in use at that plant are of high cost, and the principal loss was caused by the injury to these. The shed which was burned was between the mill and the canal, which separates the property of the Springfield facing company from that of the Hampden brewery. A considerably larger shed at the rear of the mill was not touched by the flames.

The chief difficulty which the firemen experienced came from the insufficient water pressure, and the low pressure must be regarded as, in part, accidental. It was discovered by the water department about a month ago that three gates in the high pressure mains were not working properly, and the man which supplies the brewery, the facing mill and the No. 1 hydrant, was connected for the time being with the old low-pressure gravity system, with the result that at the hydrant which the firemen needed to use had a pressure of only about 40 pounds. When the change was made the superintendent of the water department, and the reason for deferring repairs and relying temporarily on a low pressure system was that it was thought preferable to wait until the round was softer before digging it up to make the repairs on the gates. The nearest hydrant connected with the high pressure system was about 1500 feet from the scene of the fire, and when the firemen first got there they didn't have enough hose to reach it. Later they sent the automobile back to the Willimansett station for more hose.

The firemen worked at the fire from midnight up to 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning, for while it had been under control after 2 o'clock the inflammable materials in which the fire was still dormant needed attention, and there was no certainty that the fire wouldn't break out more dangerously. The smoke from the burning charcoal affected some of the firemen a little, and one of the firemen was caught in a back draught of smoke while standing on a ladder an had his face slightly burned. He went home, applied an ointment to his face, and came back to the fray. All the firemen were covered with the fine charcoal dust, so that it suggested to the chief that they would have served very well, as far as appearance was concerned, as a troop of minstrels. The fire was handled by the Willimanset regular and call men, and the men dispatched from Holyoke, and it was felt that they did their work well. It was suggested yesterday that the fire started in the main mill, and not in the shed, as the first reports indicated.

P. H. Remington, treasurer of the Springfield facing company, said yesterday that steps toward repairing the plant and replacing the damaged machinery would be taken as soon as the insurance claims were adjusted. The mill is a small one, but has a large product. The boiler and engine were not harmed in the fire.

The Springfield Republican, Springfield, MA 3 Mar 1910