On the night of August 11, 1918 at 8:40 PM, the night-watchman and sales manager of the Brown-Camp Hardware Company store in Des Moines, Iowa heard something that sounded like an explosion at the rear of the building. Upon inspection, they discovered that the rear portion of the building (outside the office) was filled with smoke which seemed to be coming from through one of the upper floors. The fire was under control and confined to the building within seven hours of the first alarm.
From the NFPA Quarterly v.11, no.3, 1918:
“The cause of the fire is not known. It is thought to have started on the second or third floor, at the east side. The stock carried at this point consisted of cases of loaded shells and of mixed paints in sealed cans. It is thought that the fire was of incendiary origin though there is no tangible evidence obtainable at this time to support this theory. The only employee in the building during the afternoon of Saturday, the day of the fire, resigned his position on the following Monday.
The complete destruction of all floors above the grade makes any investigation impossible.”
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