Newport, RI Water Works Building Fire, Dec 1943


General Alarm Blaze Gives Firemen Fierce Battle

Flames Threaten Thames Street Properties; Records, Office Equipment Saved.

Extensive damage was caused to the municipally owned Water Works buildings on West Marlborough street in a general alarm fire early Monday. The fire, one of the worst the city has experienced in months, sent clouds of black smoke billowing over the northern part of the city, and caused much hard work on the part of all available firemen before it was brought under control.

When the fire was first discovered, a still alarm was sounded, followed closely by Box 231, and then by 22, the general alarm. The flames had quite a start before the pumpers were hooked in and the streams of water were poured on the flames, which had spread through the second story of the building and into a loft area. Working at the center of the long building used for work shops, storage and the offices of the company, firemen had great difficulty checking the fire as a westerly wind, created a strong draft.

Within 10 minutes of the first alarm the east end of the building, within a few feet of the rear of Thames Street properties was ablaze. Coast Guardsmen, responding to a telephone call, took in a hose line that set water curtains first on the nearby properties and then directly into the flames. This line was considered one factor that saved a considerable section of Thames Street property.

Built many years ago, the brick structure was used for a considerable time as a factory, being operated 50 years ago for the making of elastic goods and braiding. Heavy timbers of the original structure withstood the flames for some time, but toppled when roof trusses burned.

An hour after its discovery the fire was under control although the building was so badly damaged that major repairs will be required including an entire new roof over the eastern half.

In about half an hour, the fire practically demolished the upper section of the building. When the general alarm sounded, sections of the roof were already falling in as apparatus from the downtown section of the city arrived.

so great was the heat of the flames in the upper loft of the building that the ladders put against thee second floor roof, were charred, but a number of flat roofs gave firemen working areas from which to train water lines.

Before the fire gained great headway, company employes{sic}, aided by a number of volunteers, carried most of the company records and office equipment into the vault. Furniture was grouped and covered with tarpaulins.

After a conference held at the scene of the fire, Mayor Herbert E. Macauley, Cornelius C. Moore, chairman of the Representative Council, and Harold E. Watson, water commissioner, issued an appeal to all residents of the city to conserve domestic water. They emphasized that, because of recent fires, particularly over the weekend, a large quantity of water had been drawn from the already low local ponds.

Newport Mercury And Weekly News, Newport, RI 24 Dec 1943