Pawtucket, RI Fire, May 1894



All the Large Coal and Lumber Yards Swept Away---A Schooner, All Ablaze, Swings Across the River and Spreads the Conflagration---Narrow Escape of Tenement Houses---Electric Power House Threatened.

PAWTUCKET, R. I., May 16,---A column of black smoke, rising from a wide area and mounting high into the sky before it spread, attracted attention from all sections within a radius of ten miles of Pawtucket this afternoon. In that column of smoke there went up over $500,000 worth of property, and all of the large coal and lumber yards in Pawtucket were practically swept away.

The property on each side of the river, from the Division Street bridge on the north to the works of the Pawtucket Gas Company on the west and the Pawtucket Boat Club on the east, was destroyed within a few hours. The recent dry weather, with the heat of the day, produced conditions that made the timbers burn like tinder.

Within a few minutes after the first spark started the work of destruction the immense coal shed presented a magnificent spectacle to the crowd that quickly gathered on the bridge.

A strong northwest wind swept down the valley and carried sparks and burning embers from building to building.

The three-masted schooner L. F. Hopkins, laden with paving stones for the town of Lincoln, was moored at the dock on the water front of the Newell yard. This schooner was soon enveloped in flames, and its hawsers burned away.

The current swung the boat across the stream, making a bridge of fire to the east side of the river. With the wind sweeping in that direction the flames were carried to the premises of the Pawtucket City coal yard and very quickly were under great headway on the east side of the river.

A general alarm called the entire force and apparatus of the Pawtucket department, and help was summoned from Providence and Central Falls.

In less than half an hour the fire worked its way southward into the premises of Olney & Payne Brothers, dealers in coal and builders' materials, on the west side of the river.

On the other side of the river all the owners of the premises could do was to save horses and harnesses. The fire was in undisputed possession of the Pawtucket coal yard and the lumber yard of John T. Cottrell. The four big coal and lumber yards burned fiercely.

The laborers employed at the Pawtucket Gas Works were set at work directing lines of hose upon the tanks and buildings on the premises, which seemed doomed to share the destruction that was in progress. The boundary line between the premises of Olney & Payne Brothers and the gas plant formed the ultimate southern limit of the fire district.

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