|Wednesday, November 6, 1929||The Globe (Toronto)||Page 13, col. 7|
Great flames redden eastern skies as big, rambling frame building belches forth fountains of fire
Firefighters drag hose over great stretch of difficult, hilly ground to battle most spectacular conflagration since destruction of Metropolitan Church two years ago—Eight thousand feet of hose used as men strive to subdue fire already beyond control as alarm brings them to scene of all-night vigil
Monster flare illuminates entire district
Ten thousand square yards of seething flames reddened the sky over Toronto last night as the huge frame icehouse of the Canadian National Railways in the East End yards, bounded by Gerrard and Main Streets and Danforth Avenue, was completely destroyed by a second-alarm fire, with a loss estimated by the Fire Department at $25,000, but by railway officials at $70,000.
The great, rambling building, occupying the centre of the railway yards, and measuring about 200 by 50 yards, was practically empty, and no more hopeless location for the fighting of a fire could be imagined.
Spectacular in the extreme.
White flames leaped with terrific speed along the entire length and breadth of the tinder-dry structure, and while firemen struggled to drag hose lines, often a quarter mile in length, across the hilly ground from Gerrard Street, the blaze roared in gigantic tongues into the flowing sky, and brought thousands of citizens to see the most spectacular blaze in the city since the destruction of Metropolitan Church, almost two years ago.
The Fire Department gave its best efforts, but from the movement when the first apparatus rolled of its hall, in response to the original alarm, into streets already bright with the glare of the flames, the building was known to be doomed.
An all-night job.
Through streets filled with cars of the curious, ten fire companies, under Chief Russell, Deputy Chief George Sinclair and District Chiefs Charles Fox, Tate and Poole, speeded to the rescue, and, although some of the second-alarm reels were sent home at midnight, it was an all-night job which faced those that remained.
From all directions.
The first of them, the sections from Main Street, Greenwood Avenue and Beech Halls under District Chief Fox, had answered the first alarm, which was telephoned in at 10.02 p.m., and which was closely followed by other calls by box and telephone.
At 10.13 p.m. the District Chief found the flames beyond control of his small force, and sent in a second alarm, which brought reinforcements under the senior officers from Bolton and Ross Avenues and Berkeley and East Dundas Streets Halls.
The firemen converged on the huge inferno of fire from all sides, but were handicapped by the distance from water hydrants, the shortest line of eight-odd which were laid being about 1,250 feet long. Pumpers were put into operation, and the hydrant pressure was quickly boosted.
Fountain of flame.
The big shell of the build was by this time enveloped in flame from end to end, and the battering jets of water merely smashed holes in the flimsy frame walls and shot through. What little sawdust there was in the place added to the fierceness of the fire, and sent great fountains of sparks soaring into the sky.
The heat was terrific. It was but inch by inch that the firemen were able to fight their way to close quarters with the flames, and it was only as the conflagration began to burn itself out around midnight that they could actually get within a close distance of the building.
All the while the mobs of spectators on the streets bounding the yards were growing denser, and they began to overflow on to the railway property itself. The police of Main Street Station, under Inspector Majury, and reinforced by squads from other stations, were endeavoring to keep the citizens out of the way of harm and the firemen, while motorcycle officers strove to untangle the almost hopeless traffic jam which prevailed from the city limits on the east to Coxwell Avenue on the west, and as far north and south as the city boundary and Kingston Road.
Like a house of cars.
At about 11 o'clock the centre of the ice house collapsed in a shower of sparks into a great heap of flaming embers, which offered the firemen their first real chance to use their powerful hose-jets with good effect. In a few minutes this portion of the building was merely a smoking blackness, with the east and west ends still blazing.
One squad of firemen, crouched over their hose, had a narrow escape as the centre portion collapsed, and only escaped injury by scurrying back to a safe distance as the first blazing beams began to fall.
Active during night.
By midnight the west end of the great oblong of fire was out, and with half a dozen lines of hose directed at the eastern end, some of the second-alarm companies were released to return to their halls. Chief Russell and Deputy Chief Sinclair did not leave until the situation was well in hand, and they instructed several companies to remain all night pouring on the glowing embers.
The C.N.R. have one of their locomotive crews to thank for saving them the loss of a number of freight cars. The string of three cars burst into flame from flying sparks well down the tracks from the ice house, and just out of reach of the water from the hose lines. The engineer and firemen of a locomotive speeded down the track and towed them to within reach of the firemen, who doused the flames in a moment. Several other strings of cars began to smoke from the heat of the fire, but were soaked with water, and thus saved.
Before leaving the scene, Chief Russell announced his estimate of the loss at between $25,000 and $30,000, and gave the cause of the outbreak as unknown. But with a twinkle in his eye, the Chief added:Don't forget that this is Guy Fawkes night.In answer to a question he admitted that boys might have set the building ablaze as part of their celebration.
Just nine years ago, it was recalled, the old C.N.R. ice house on the identical site, was similarly swept by fire, in temperature of about 15 degrees below zero. On that occasion, however, the Fire Department was called before the flames had so much headway, and managed to save the east end of the structure.