Chicago, IL Grain Elevator Fire, Sep 1905



Chicago, Sept. 9. -- The Santa Fe elevator, containing 845,000 bushels of grain, was destroyed by fire here today. Loss: $725,000.
The building at 27th and Wood Streets., was a five story frame structure, covered by sheet iron and corrugated steel. The fire is thought to have been started by spontaneous combustion in a wheat bin on the top story. An explosion was heard by several workmen, who hurried to that floor. When they arrived they saw flames issuing from one of the bins. Efforts were made to extinguish the fire, but after a short fight the men were forced to flee from the building.
Meantime the Fire Department had been notified, but before the first detachment arrived the flames had reached the first floor of the building and were beyond control. The firemen experienced difficulty in reaching the fire and in obtaining water, although twenty engines and two fire tugs were at the scene. The nearest water plug to the fire was more than two hundred feet away, while others were almost four hundred yards from the building.
The elevator is controlled by the Harris-Scotten Company, grain brokers, and was valued at $300,000. Forty or more grain cars were standing on a side track near the building when the fire started. Engines were called, and these were moved under heavy risk by the train crews. None of the cars burned.
Within fifteen minutes after the fire had been discovered the entire building was a mass of flames. The heat was intense, and the firemen were forced back from the building. An hour after the fire the floors of the building collapsed, and later the sides of the building gave way. Hundreds of bushels of grain flowed into the river from the north side of the building.
The elevator was 400 feet wide and 175 feet long. It contained sixty bins. It was situated on the banks of the South Branch River, in a maze of railroad tracks and docks.

New York Daily Tribune 1905-09-10