Archive for Wednesday, October 30, 2013

100 years ago: Theater severely damaged, firemen injured in downtown blaze

October 30, 2013


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Oct. 30, 1913:

"One of the stubbornest fires that Lawrence has seen for a long time broke out in the Grand Theater building last night doing heavy damage to lots and adjoining buildings on either side and for a while threatened to reach further into the block. Two firemen who battled the smoke all night were overcome this morning and had to be taken away. Otto Hines was taken to the Simmons hospital this morning about 9 o'clock in a very serious condition. Harry Wagner, another fireman, was overcome later in the morning but his condition was not such that he needed hospital treatment. He was given emergency treatment and taken to the firemen's headquarters.... The fire was a complete puzzle to the firemen in that they were unable to locate the flames although the smoke continued to pour out the entrance in great volumes for many hours after daylight came this morning. At no time were the firemen able to find a flame in the Grand building. The only fire that they saw was in the Sneegas Pool Hall when it spread from the other building. This was soon extinguished and the firemen returned to the smoke battle.... It was found this morning that the cause of this was the presence of a large quantity of oats and other grain in the space between the ceiling of the first floor and the floor of the second story. This grain was carried in there several years ago when the building was used by W. H. Pendleton as a warehouse. Rats had carried the seed there and deposited it. When the building was remodeled into a motion picture house this seed remained. It caught fire this morning and smouldered for hours causing the great amount of smoke which puzzled the firefighters for a long time.... Two streams of water were kept playing on the fire for nearly twelve hours, emptying thousands of barrels of water into this section of the street. Consequently every basement to the south corner of the block was flooded and the damage was thus extended to property not affected by the fire.... The Grand Theater loses practically all of the fixtures of the picture show. The large Mirror screen valued at close to a thousand dollars was ruined, two pianos were lost, the seats are many of them ruined and the electric fixtures are badly damaged. It will be necessary to replace or repair practically ever bit of equipment in the show. The machine and the contents of the fireproof booth were saved from damage.... Norman Gibbons, owner of The Grand, stated this morning that he would rebuild at once. His loss is practically covered by insurance and no time will be lost in installing a new show.... The fire emphasized the need of a number of smoke helmets to be added to the equipment of the local fire fighting force. The two firemen who were overcome by the smoke stayed with their work too long without any protection against the smoke, and their services were lost and their health at least temporarily impaired. While their condition is not regarded as critical it may require considerable time for them to recover."


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