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109 Posts authored by: jrodowicz Employee

On June 9th, 1946 a fire at the Canfield Hotel in Dubuque, Iowa captured national attention when 19 people died and 20 others were injured.

 

The Canfield Hotel consisted of two buildings: the original four story brick joisted section and the six story fire resistive annex that was built in 1925. The original building did not have a sprinkler system and had installed a wooden stairway to connect the original building to the three upper floors of the annex. The annex had a closed non-combustible stairwell with automatic fire doors that lead to an exit on the ground floor.

 

Guests accessed the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors of the annex from a sub-standard elevator or the open stairway from the first floor of the original building. Additionally, corridors between the original building to the annex continued across all floors but were protected with automatic fire doors. Guests accessed the fifth and sixth floors of the annex from an elevator.

 

The fire started in a small closet in the Red Lounge on the first floor of the hotel. Waitresses were instructed to put cigarette butts in paper napkins and place them in a paper trash can in the closet. At 12:10 am, four guests had gone to play the juke box and heard a crackling noise and smelled smoke, went to investigate, and discovered that the wall in the closet was on fire. The guests and the hotel manager tried to extinguish the fire with a wet towel and a fire extinguisher but their attempts were unsuccessful. The fire quickly spread to the combustible finish on the walls of the bar. Fifteen minutes after the fire began, the hotel manager tried to warn guests on the upper floors. The night clerk notified the fire department at 12:39 am. Many escaped by using the fire escape on the annex.

 

When the fire department arrived, the fire had encompassed the lounge and the lobby. The fire department did not have enough staff to simultaneously fight the fire and save lives so they made the decision that life-saving took priority over fighting the fire at the time. At 12:42 am, another alarm was sent out by police radio to call for additional help. Civilians, the police department, and National Guardsmen assisted the fire department. They were able to rescue 35 people using ladders and 27 people jumped into life nets. It took the fire department 2.5 hours with six pumping engines, an aerial, and two ladder companies to extinguish the fire.

 

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


The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

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.


 The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
 Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

CQ CQ CQ…

This is KB1JOY. Welcome back for another installment of our Throwback Thursday blog!

As part of our National Electrical Safety Month coverage, the NFPA Research Library & Archives thought we would share a piece from the archives relating to Amateur Radio and introduce some of our readers to a popular hobby at the same time.

Amateur Radio enjoys a long and rich history. Over the years, Amateur Radio enthusiasts (or Hams) have made a number of significant contributions to their local communities and to the sciences. Today Amateur Radio (ham radio) is still a popular hobby that allows people to experiment with electronics and communications in a fun way.

“Although Amateur Radio operators get involved for many reasons, they all have in common a basic knowledge of radio technology and operating principles, and pass an examination for the FCC license to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands.” These bands are frequencies allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by ham radio operators.”

We hope you enjoy the following story and image!

73.

KB1JOY.

ARRL_Home Radio_1922

From The NFPA Quarterly v.16, no.2, 1922:

The radio signaling apparatus in the home of Mr. Hiram Percy Maxim, Hartford, Conn. Mr. Maxim is president of the American Radio Relay League. Most amateur experimenters locate their station in their home, and inasmuch as they are unable to change the surroundings they must, to a certain extent at least, take things as they are. A careful study of the conditions will, however, often enable one to overcome and seeming handicap which may exist. This is just what Mr. Maxim has done. As a result, he has an efficient equipment without some of the unfortunate hazards which surround other amateur stations. Mr. Maxim made frequent grounds inside and outside of his home. He made at least twenty driven pipe grounds, running the ground conductor from the pipes to a water pipe outside of the foundation wall. Inside of the house, Mr. Maxim connected, electrically, all soil, gas, heating and other metal conductors by means of a copper bonding wire, and connecting this bonding wire to a water pipe, thus providing means for “draining” any static accumulation within his home.

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


 The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
 Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

May is National Electrical Safety Month and we are excited to have the opportunity to share some of the safety messaging NFPA has distributed throughout its lengthy history.

 

 

This week we are have a classic public service advertisement from 1964 warning the public to pay attention to the electrical.  Sparky’s message may be and old one, but it is still a valid and important one.

According to NFPA’s latest Home Electrical Fires report, “Aging electrical systems in older homes can be a source of arc faults, either through normal wear and tear or because the systems cannot accommodate the greater demands of modern appliances. Circuits can also be overloaded by providing electricity to too many appliances, often through power cords.

 

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

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

One hundred years ago, a previously held belief that a dry-cell battery was practically non-hazardous and considered suitable for installing in dusty locations was disproved. During experimental work using six regular commercial type dry-cell batteries connected to each other in series, the batteries were inadvertently short-circuited and a peculiar fire hazard was discovered

Burning insulation on wiring of dry batteries after batteries were short-circuited.

 

 

From The NFPA Quarterly v.13, no.2, 1919:

There are three distinct phase of fire hazard introduced by dry-cell batteries of this type, any one of which might result in fire:

  • Are developed between carbon and wire or hot wire or molten copper igniting dust, inflammable vapors or combustible material;
  • Ignition of insulation;
  • Ignition of vapor due to volatilization of sealing compound by arc or heated wire.

The following is suggested:

  • Immediate inspection of all dry battery installations to make sure that all connections are in good condition and tightly secured;
  • Immediately remove such installations from locations where inflammable dust or vapors are or may be present;
  • Where facilities are available, top of carbon electrode might be covered with compound used for sealing batteries, leaving only copper connection or binding post exposed;
  • Enclosures containing dry cells of this type should be of metal, or have interior protected with asbestos.

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


 The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.
 Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

Since May is National Electrical Safety Month, we thought we would look back at some of NFPA’s historic messaging. Pictured above is a classic public service advertisement from 1955 declaring the dangers of frayed electrical cords and overloaded wiring systems.

According to NFPA’s latest Home Electrical Fires report, “Aging electrical systems in older homes can be a source of arc faults, either through normal wear and tear or because the systems cannot accommodate the greater demands of modern appliances. Circuits can also be overloaded by providing electricity to too many appliances, often through power cords.

 

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

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

On April 25, 1935 multiple forest fires swept through the Deer Park area of Long Island, New York. Before firefighters were able to gain control, the largest blaze swept through 10,000 acres and destroyed the Abraham Golden pickle factory.

The image above shows an aerial view of the forest fire as it swept the area around Deer Park. The fire was first reported by fire warden James P. Larsen while he was stationed in the watchtower at Camp Upton, in Yaphank. Shortly before nightfall police picked up four young men for questioning regarding the origin of the fire. According to the officers, an empty gasoline canister was found in the vehicle the four young men were traveling in.

 

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

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

 

To stay up to date on news and information, sign up for NFPA Newsletters.

Late in the morning on Friday, April 20, 1928, three explosions shook the property at the Alexander Industries plant in Engelwood, Colorado. At least eleven people lost their lives due to this tragedy.

The cause of the explosions was undetermined at the time, but it was widely believed that the ignition source was from an electric motor that sparked while operating a ventilation fan and then set fire to a pan of silver nitrate in the paint shop. This shop was used as a “Dope Shed” where airplane wings would be coated with a nitro-cellulose compound called “dope”. Because of the highly flammable nature of the materials involved, the fire spread quickly and destroyed most of the complex.

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

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

To stay up to date, sign up for NFPA Newsletters.

On April 10, 1935, the Massachusetts fire departments of Weymouth and Braintree were called upon to fight a large fire that swept over Weymouth Landing after a gas explosion early in the morning.

 

 

At the time of the incident, there had been a suspected gas leak. The manager of the store was heading to the basement to inspect the leak at about 1:30 A.M, when the blast occurred. Considerable confusion was caused in the surrounding streets by flooding and a fire soon broke out among the debris in the store. The blast also was credited with shattering the window glass of most of the surrounding buildings.

 

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

 

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.

 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

After a long period of drought conditions, much of the western and central portions of the United States have been saturated by flooding in recent weeks. Today the NFPA Archives takes a look back at an incident from April 3, 1958.

 

It all started out innocently enough. Sixteen year-old, Ronald Gregory of Oakland, California was wading through the flood-swollen waters of a local creek bed when he was caught by surprise and swept away with the strong current. He ended up traveling a fair distance downstream before he managed to grab the trunk of a willow tree and pull himself up to a precarious position in its branches. The image above shows the final rescue that was made by the San Leandro police and fire personnel.

 

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

 

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic.

 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public.

This week we mark one hundred and eight years since the disaster and tragedy known as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. On March 25, 1911, fire spread through the cramped garment factory on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building in lower Manhattan. The rapidly spreading fire killed 146 workers, many of whom were young women.

The building only had one fire escape and this inadequate means of egress collapsed during the rescue efforts. Workers were crushed in the panic as the fought to open locked doors and only a few water buckets were available to douse flames.

After the incident, the labor movement and other groups created a public outcry over what was clearly a preventable tragedy. There was a renewed sense of urgency toward creating safer working environments and improving the rights of women and immigrants at this time as well.

According to OSHA, “the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire remained the deadliest workplace tragedy in New York City’s History” until the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Read more from the 100th anniversary in NFPA Journal.

 

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

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

 

Stay up to date by signing up for NFPA Newsletters.

On March 21, 1934, the city of Hakodate, Japan was overwhelmed by a conflagration that destroyed more than half of the city’s buildings and caused the loss of more than two thousand lives.

While fires and conflagrations were not unusual in the seaside community, the weather conditions that occurred on this particular date made this incident particularly tragic. There was a heavy rain that day that later changed to snow. As the afternoon progressed the snow was accompanied by a gradually increasing southwest wind which reached more than 60 miles per hour by 6pm. Added to these conditions were short circuits in the city lighting system.

From NFPA Quarterly v. 28, no. 2 (1934):

“The fire had its origin on the second floor of a two-story wooden building occupied by a Shinto priest in the southeastern part of the city. It is supposed to have been caused by burning embers from an open fireplace, which was exposed when the roof of the house was blown off by the wind. This section of the city is in a low place and the fire was first observed from the fire tower at the fire brigade headquarters more than a mile away, although there were street fire alarm boxes installed in the immediate vicinity. Three engines and three hose trucks were dispatched to the scene of the fire as promptly as possible. Some delay was experienced, however, due to the fact that most of the men and equipment of the brigade were engaged at fires caused by the short circuiting of electric wires in various other parts of the city…

Because of the direction of the wind at the start of the fire many people made their escape to Omori Beach, where they were trapped when the wind suddenly shifted toward the west. About 550 persons were burned, drowned or frozen when the fire overtook them at this point.

The greatest loss of life occurred at Shinkawa when the three bridges which spanned the Shinkawa River burned or broke under the weight of the panic-striken throngs. This cut off all escape to the north and 600 persons burned to death in this areas. Severe loss of life also occurred in the section burned at Takamori-cho, at Sunayama-cho some 400 persons who could not pass the mountain were all burned to death and at Shinkawa Beach 120 were burned, drowned, or frozen to death.”

 

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

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

 

Stay up to date by signing up for NFPA Newsletters.

On March 21, 1929 an explosion and fire occurred at the Kinloch Mine in Parnassus, PA. The origin of this explosion was underground and forty-six lives were lost when the incident occurred. At the time of the explosion, there were two hundred and fifty-eight men underground. Fortunately, the explosion was limited due to partial rock dusting and 213 people were able to escape.

From NFPA Quarterly v. 23, no. 1 (1929):

“The explosion traveled up the slope to the Tipple Building, which was ignited and burned for three or four hours. One man was burned to death here and four were injured. This structure, as shown by the accompanying illustration, was entirely of steel construction, with no combustible material except coal dust and pieces of coal, some wooden flooring, and the paint on the corrugated iron walls. The damage to this structure was largely due to the fire rather than to the explosion, which presumably did not have great force when it propagated outside the mine and into the Tipple Building, the floor of which was 25 to 30 ft. above the ground.

It would appear from the description that this fire might have been controlled with a minimum of damage by an automatic sprinkler system if sprinklers had been installed. Automatic sprinkler protection is not usual in this class of property; this case indicates the potential value of such protection.”

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

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

 

Stay up to date by signing up for NFPA Newsletters.

Pictured above are the charred ruins of a prison stockade near Kenansville, N.C.

On Saturday, March 7th 1931, eleven prisoners were trapped in their cells and died as fire destroyed the entire structure. The county investigation apparently ended with a coroner’s verdict stating that no criminal negligence was attached to any person and that the fire started from an unknown origin.

What was eventually referred to as “The Duplin Incident” sparked debate and increased awareness of the antiquated prisons located in the region. Governor Gardner of North Carolina was prompted to issue a statement appealing to the legislature to approve a bill that would allow construction of a more modern and less flammable prison facility.

 

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the  NFPA Research Library & Archives. The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

 

Stay up to date by signing up for NFPA Newsletters.

Two men lost their lives and six others were injured on February 21, 1925 when an explosion occurred on an oil barge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The barge contained 150,000 gallons of crude oil and was located at the municipal garbage disposal plant in the southwest portion of the city when the accident happened.

 

 

From The NFPA Quarterly v.18, no.4, 1925:

“Fire apparatus, summoned by two alarms on the east bank of the river and three on the west bank, hurried to the scene in time to check the onrush of flames in the wake of the explosion, which threatened the railroad bridge. Spreading ashore at the disposal plant, the blaze damaged the pier and oil storage tanks.
Drifting patches of blazing fluid on the river’s surface forced the crew of a pile driver to leap for their lives, while the intensity of the heat from the flames drove men off a number of barges moored nearby.”

  

For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives or sign up for one of NFPA's newsletters.  

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. 

Library staff are available to answer research questions from members and the general public. 

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