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Aug. 1, 1897: OTTAWA, IL The Pioneer Fire-Proof Construction Co. plant, the largest of its kind in the world, was nearly destroyed during an afternoon fire that caused more than $100,000 in damage. The blaze, incendiary in origin, was the second of the day after a grain silo was set on fire during the morning.
Aug. 2, 1897: SAVANNAH, GA The British merchant ship Cypher was destroyed by a fire, along with its cargo of lumber and resin. The vessel was at dock, and it was believed members of the crew who did not want to go to sea set fire to the ship.
Aug. 2, 1897: ORAN, Algeria A detachment of 1,500 men belonging to the French Foreign Legion were pressed into fire duty as enormous forest fires spread over the countryside. The legionnaires battled the flames night and day for over a week but could do little to stop the advancing walls of fire.
Aug. 4, 1897: PHILADELPHIA An explosion of distilling oil in the chemical works of D. Jayne & Sons at Bermuda and Tucker streets started a major fire. Seven firemen and two workers were seriously burned by a secondary explosion after firefighting efforts had begun. Assistant Chief Engineer McDade's clothes were burned completely off his body and it was feared his burns would be fatal. Fourteen firemen in all were treated for burns.
Aug. 5, 1897: CHICAGO An exploding grain elevator took the lives of at least four firemen and three civilians. The fire, believed to have started in the boiler house, soon spread toward the grain elevator. Members of Engine 3 were stretching lines up ladders when the explosion occurred. Newspaper articles described the blast as so severe the "structure burst into atoms." The east wall of the building and a number of firemen were hurled into the river by the explosion. Numerous firemen were severely injured by the blast but picked themselves up and battled the flames to save their comrades.
Aug. 10, 1897: GREENWOOD, NY An exploding oil lamp in a barber shop quickly spread throughout the business section of town. Mutual aid companies arrived by train.
Aug. 10, 1897: NEW YORK CITY Firemen were called to the site of the Croton water trench at 164th Street, where two workers were trapped in an excavation cave-in. Rescuers found the two men buried under 12 feet of sandy soil. The first man was reached, alive, within 15 minutes. The second worker was found dead 15 minutes later.
Aug. 12, 1897: NEW YORK CITY Harlem firemen were again faced with a rescue situation involving an excavation cave-in. This time, a worker was trapped by a collapsing wall of dirt while digging a building foundation. The man was buried up to his neck in an unstable area when firemen arrived. They carefully dug him out amid cheers from his fellow workers and a crowd of spectators.
Aug. 15, 1897: BALTIMORE A bolt of lightning struck a saw and planing mill at the foot of Boston Street and started a fire that was soon out of control. The flames began spreading from the mill buildings to the mill owner's houseboat and the adjacent wharf, dry dock and vessels moored there. Firefighters were able to stop the advancing flames as a large storage shed became involved. More than a half million dollars' damage was caused by the fire.
CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS: The Pikesville, MD, Volunteer Fire Company marked its 100th anniversary this year by hosting a Centennial Fireman's Muster. The company's original 100-year-old hand pumper was displayed…The Huntington, WV, Fire Department was reorganized in 1897 with a paid chief, four paid drivers and a force of call men who were paid by the alarm of fire. This marked the end of an all-volunteer fire department that had been formed in August 1874 with an engine company, a hose company and a hook-and-ladder company.