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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

Milwaukee Sentinel: Milwaukee, Wisconsin Tuesday, February 21, 1899,   pp. 55-61

Page 60

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
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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