Wester, Kevin J. (ed.) / Consumed by fire : a collection of writings about the famous Wisconsin Chair Company fire, Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 19, 1899
Milwaukee Sentinel: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Tuesday, February 21, 1899, pp. 55-61
tremendous odds, many members of the volunteer department stood about, doing nothing, though repeated calls for assistance, the Milwaukee men say, were made. Asst. Chief Clancy became incensed at the discourteous treatment, and several times protested for his men, trying to do more work than they could, while those for whose good it was being done stood idly looking on, refusing to give assistance. The Sheboygan men, it is said, met with the same reception at the further end of the fire. This morning, when the flames had been checked, the whole town lauded the excellent work of the Milwaukee firemen, and many citizens expressed regret at the behavior of the local firemen. All conceded that the Milwaukee men had saved entire business blocks from destruction, but the firemen were not inclined to accept any words of praise at that hour. One of the firemen expressed himself in a few words when his two wounded comrades were being carried to the depot: "That is the thanks we received for coming here to fight your battles---one dying and the other dangerously hurt." Scenes Yesterday Morning. When daylight dawned the town presented a strange picture. Everywhere in the streets and on sidewalks, in yards and alleys, household goods were promiscuously strewed about. In some places heating stoves stood in the middle of the street, with the fire still blazing in them. Everywhere confusion reigned. In their hurry to save their property, people had piled furniture in any place that for the time looked like a safe spot. Wagons had been loaded all night and were driven to and fro, while every kind of vehicle from a wheelbarrow to a baby carriage, was brought into play to assist in moving heavier objects. Then when it became apparent that the danger was over, those whose homes escaped destruction returned to their residence, while those whose places were lost found new ones to store their goods. It was a day of moving. Those who had no moving to do, stood about the streets, discussing the situation and predicting dubious prospects for the future. At 6 o'clock this morning the fire had so far been subdued that it was decided to send home the Sheboygan company, the engine having broken down. Co. No 10 under Capt. Peter Vaughn, continued to work among the ruins, while No. 4 was sent home at 8 o'clock, reaching Milwaukee at about 9 o'clock. Co. No. 10 remained on the ground until noon, when Asst. Chief Clancy and his men withdrew and returned to the city. Late this afternoon the flames had died out, except in the large lumber piles, which where still burning but fast turning to ashes. No cause for the origin of the fire has yet been learned. Supt. Holden, who was one of the first on the scene, yesterday gave this story of the progress of the fire: "When it was discovered in the veneering room we immediately secured several streams from the steam pumps which had been especially placed in the factory for fire protection and were getting the blaze well in hand, when the fire wall of the factory collapsed on the building built for the steams pumps, crushing the pumps and making matters useless. After that we were helpless and the flames spread rapidly in all directions."
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