Fire of 1908 Emergency Response Case Study - Page 1
On November 8, 1908, several tragic fires broke out across the Steward’s Bay area. The fires devastated a number of the townships across the area, on both sides of Steward’s Bay. The cities of Bradford and Clarkston had major sections all but destroyed. With the destruction of their homes and businesses as a catalyst, the people of these towns all came together with the common purpose of rebuilding what they had lost.
Late in the evening, a security guard spotted a fire at Sinclair Ship Works, along the southern docks of what is now Downtown and Old Bradford. Responding quickly, the local house of the fire department was there within only a few minutes, though during that time the fire had spread further. Realizing that they were no match for the fire on their own, they promptly called for reinforcements, and attempted to slow the fire’s progression towards the nearby residences, which housed many of the people who worked at the facility.
Additional fire companies arrived, both from on the mainland as well as from the nearby city of Clarkston on the other side of Steward's Bay and threw their support into the attempt to stop this blaze. Several factors impeded the effectiveness of this joint effort. Getting their supplies from a number of different places meant that they did not always connect with each other. Compound that with poor water pressure, and the firefighters had a hard time reaching the second floors of most buildings, much less the roofs.
As the fire spread towards a nearby housing area, a number of citizens became concerned that the fire department appeared to be having trouble containing the fire, and decided to help them in their own way. Believing that, if they removed some of the structures, the fire would be unable to spread, this group of concerned, but misguided, citizens collected a few small barrels of gunpowder and began the process of eliminating a few buildings. They selected three small apartment buildings across two blocks, and set their charges. The walls forced the blast upwards as they expected, but once above the brick façades, the blast radiated outwards, showering the flaming debris on other nearby buildings, and resulting in a larger and hotter fire than before. The debris rained down across a large area, trapping a number of the firefighters, as well as an assortment of citizens with small children that were still attempting to flee the area.
The fire continued to spread through much of the area, encroaching on what then was the back bay, now the reclaimed land of the Northeastern Research District, as well as the hamlets of Alexandria, and Aurora. Despite their best efforts, the firefighters realized that their standard methods would not work this time. Instead, they decided to form lines of men, which would hopefully stop the fire, before there was nothing left to save.
Three locations were chosen for setting up these fire lines, running between some of the narrower points of the peninsula. The first line was to be in the part of town known as Alexandria, on the southwestern side of Ephesus University by the Central Library. The second line was to be just to the north of the southern edge of the bay, where the peninsula met the mainland. The third line was to the northwest, crossing southwards across what was left of the downtown area, down through the warehouses along the docks that were still standing. Dividing themselves up into three groups, approximately even in number, they set to making their stand against the inferno.
As the longest line was beginning to be pushed back, a sudden storm system moved in from the west, bringing heavy snow and winds that blew counter to those that they had been fighting until this point. Suddenly, things were looking up for those along the long line across downtown. The opposite line in Alexandria, however, did not have such a good opinion of the change in the wind patterns. The fire was suddenly coming directly at them, hungry for more fuel.
A few firefighters left the line by the university to run into the nearby dormitories to ensure that they were evacuated, and then to start evacuating the people that were taking refuge inside the library to escape the unseasonably cold air. Before the only remaining exit from the library was blocked off by the fire as it engulfed the plants and grasses around it, the firefighters were only able to evacuate about half of the people that had taken shelter there. Knowing that not everyone had gotten out, the fire fighters believed that they could do no more for those trapped inside, and turned their efforts towards preventing the fire from going any further up the peninsula.
At some point, no one was sure just when, the library began to shimmer. Not the kind of shimmer you get when light is reflected off of the roof, but the kind of shimmer when light is reflected off of the moisture in the air, such as on a really humid day. Suddenly having a solid point that the fire appeared to be unable to touch, the firefighters began to reclaim the hope that they would yet be able to stop their nemesis. As the storm increased its power, the rain came down heavier and heavier, taking much of the power from the flames as it lost its heat. Regaining their hope as well as some of the ground they had lost, the fire was finally brought to a stop just beyond the library to the northeast.
Firefighters believe that the shimmering, whatever its cause,was the main reason that the fire did not touch the library itself. There was substantial damage to the grounds all around, but not a single piece of paper contained within the library was so much as singed. The people that remained within its walls after the fire had spread around it were unharmed, and no one claimed to know anything about the shimmering that the fire fighters had seen.
At the height of the fire in Bradford, after the entire firefighting force of Clarkston had crossed the bay to help, of course, is when the fire began on the edge of Ironport.
How did the fire in Bradford start:
a) Cow kicking over a lantern
b) Kids setting fires for fun
c) An unattended hearth
d) That annoying kid who sat next to you in class