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$500,000 Midland blaze destroys yards, ships, homes

Boat plant wiped out in high wind

Big wall of flames is swept through Georgian Bay port

By C. W. MacQueen
Staff Writer, The Globe and Mail.

Midland, July 14.—A spectacular fire which raged tonight through the main construction buildings at the Midland Boat Works destroyed two naval vessels nearing completion and caused damage estimated at more than $500,000 in this Georgian Bay town's waterfront.

Swept out of control by a near-gale from the northwest, the flames quickly mushroomed through two new buildings built for the construction of naval units and fanned across town, consuming in its path the Canadian National Railway station, a large ice house, and about ten dwelling houses.

Large C.N.R. freight sheds were saved from destruction by a large number of boy volunteers who swarmed over the roofs of the buildings and damped down burning embers with two garden hoses. Within fifty feet to one side the railway depot was reduced to a smoldering ruin, whle buildings in Pratt's coal yard, including a big ice house, were blazing a dimilar distance to the other side.

According to T.M. McCollough, general manager of the Honey Harbor Navigation Company, the fire broke out about 6:15 p.m. in an old portion of the Midland Boat Works plant used by the navigation company on war contracts.

Mr. McCollough said the seat of the blaze might have been an old engine in the boiler room. Within a few minutes the flames jumped to the main buildings of the plant and roared through the two naval vessels, each of which is valued at about $190,000 when fully equipped.

Main ship plant is saved

Valuable tools and equipment were destroyed. The flames were carried by the wind away from other buildings of the boat works, but for a time threatened to spread to the multi-million-dollar Midland Shipbuilding Yards, one of the largest inland shipyards on the continent. Other naval vessels are under construction there.

The C.N.R. station, directly back of the waterfront, quickly fell prey to the flames. Great embers and burning debris meanwhile swept far back into town, and set a score of fires inhomes. At least eight homes were destroyed and several others damaged.

In Dollar Town, old residential section adjoining the waterfront, dozens of families moved their furnishings into the streets as embers threatened to set their homes afire. About five houses were destroyed in this district and three other half a mile inland.

Midland firemen, faced by an unprecedented situation, quickly called

Midland Fire
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Boat works in ruins—Firemen at Midland are shown examining destroyed machinery following a $500,000 fire last night which swept through Midland Boat Works and other buildings of the Georgian Bay port. Left is W.E. Allsopp, Midland, and right, W.R. Lytton, Barrie. Two nearly-completed naval craft went up in flames. Large sections of the town suffered damage.—Staff Photo.

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Five brigades save shipyards in $500,000 Midland fire

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This is a general view from railway yards of waterfront fire at Midland last evening which destroyed main buildings of the Midland Boat Works, two completed navy craft, the railway station and a dozen residences.

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The Midland depot is now only a name. Voluteer firefighters saved the freight sheds.

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Tangle of machinery in wreckage of Boat Works building.—Staff Photos.

Midland fire destroys ships

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for help from near-by municipalities and brigades from Penetanguishene, Barrie, Elmvale and Coldwater responded. Hundreds of volunteers aided the brigades.

Thousands of persons crowded the waterfront area at the height of the blaze and special constables were appointed to keep traffic away from danger zones. At the height of the excitement Orville Hawke, 16, was seriously injured when thrown thirty feet through the ari. His bicycle was struck by an auto.

Several privately owned launches and other small boats were reportedly burned as well as the naval craft. Water was pumped from the harbor to assist in fighting the flames. Fireman were hampered by lack of water from a damaged main which was under repair. Several lengths of hose were consumed by the flames.

Power line is burned.

An important power line several blocks inland was destroyed by fire and this will cut off power to the Midland Shipyards where war contracts are being filled.

Unofficial estimates of losses suffered included: Midland Boat Works (with which is affiliated the Honey Harbor Navigation Company)—$350,000 to $450,000; D. S. Pratt Coal Company, $150,000; Canadian National Railways, $10,000. Loss to private residences was put at $18,000.

The flames were brought under control by 9 p.m., but firemen continued fighting sporadic outbreaks and water was still being poured into smouldering ruins at midnight.

About 100 men are employed in the boat works where the fire broke out, but all had left the scene before the flames were discovered. Fire Chief Peter Grigg said he could give no information as to how the fire started.

Ref: Midland.