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Wester, Kevin J. (ed.) / Consumed by fire : a collection of writings about the famous Wisconsin Chair Company fire, Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 19, 1899

Port Washington Star: Port Washington, Wisconsin Saturday April 18, 1914,   pp. 82-83 ff.

Page 82

A $40,000 FIRE.
Destruction of Entire Wisconsin Chair Co. Plant Threatened.
The most treatening fire since the great conflagration of 1899 visited Port
Washington on Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 o'clock. At that time the large warehouse of
the Wisconsin Chair Company, located on Lake street, and just across the street from the
main plant, was discovered to be on fire. The city fire department responded promptly as
did also the company's private fire fighting force, and within less than five minutes
streams of water were being poured into the burning building. Adjoining the warehouse
was the company's barns, which also were soon ablaze.
It was a hard fire to fight. The flames had their origin in almost the center of the
warehouse, which was filled with wrapped chairs and this made it very difficult to get at.
The building was completely filled with stock and materials, and below were stored
thousands of feet of cut wood stock which it was necessary to drown out before the fire
was extinguished.
For a time the main buildings of the plant were in danger but hard and intelligent
work averted that calamity, coupled with the fact that there was no perceptible breeze and
the flames shot straight skyward.
Soon after the firemen got into action on the fire Mayor Bolens arrived on the
scene with an auto load of hose from the private supply of the Gilson Mfg. Co., and as the
danger seemed great, he immediately called Mayor Armbruster of Cedarburg over the
long distance phone and arranged to have a load of that neighboring city's surplus fire
hose placed on an extra Milwaukee-Northern car ready to be rushed here upon call, which
action by our neighbors is gratefully appreciated by our people.
About 5:30 o'clock, however, it appeared that progress was being made in
subduing the fire and by 6:00 o'clock practically all danger of its spreading further was
over. The fire department was on the job all night with five lines of hose, and three from
the chair factory's private plant, and up to 9:00 o'clock the next morning, when the
company decided that its own force could cope with the situation and the city's force
The fierceness of the fight to control this fire and keep it within the buildings
where it started may be imagined when one learns the figures that show the amount of
water pumped by the power plant, being 600,000 gallons for the 24 hours, which taxed
both the capacity of the power plant and the water system to their utmost. That no breaks
happened is testimony to the excellence of the work done when the city plant and water
system were installed.
The loss is conservatively estimated at $40,000, with about $32,000 of insurance.
The most fortunate feature of this fire, aside from the narrow escape of the main plant

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