#TBT From The NFPA Archives: He Chose The Wrong Door

Blog Post created by jrodowicz Employee on Jun 6, 2019

From The NFPA Quarterly v.43, no.1, 1949:

On Saturday afternoon, June 4, 1949, two employees under the direction of a foreman were unpacking goods in the Montgomery Ward warehouse in San Rafael, California, -- an innocuous operation from a fire hazard standpoint as long as somebody saw to it that the packing materials were properly disposed of. This foreman undertook to do when he detailed one of his men to burn the rubbish. Being new on the job and not having previously had the rubbish detail, the employee was instructed to proceed to the end of a certain corridor, go through a doorway and there he would find a place to burn. The employee was successful in “finding a place to burn”; when next he was seen racing back up the corridor closely pursued by a fast spreading fire that caused $350,000 damage before being controlled.

There were two doors at the end of the corridor, one to the outside where the incinerator was located, and the other a fire door to a paint spray room. As luck would have it, the latter was blocked open, so in he went, deposited the rubbish in a convenient metal enclosure with what looked like a smoke pipe in the back, and touched a match to it.

Fire apparatus arrived promptly in answer to an automatic alarm, but the unsprinklered one- and two-story wood frame structure was already beyond saving.


For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.

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