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Haverhill, MA City Fire, Feb 1882

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Boston, Feb. 18. -- Eighty-two shoe and leather firms, representing at least $2,500,000, are wiped out by the fire in Haverhill this morning. More than 2,000 people are thrown out of work, and the indirect loss amounts to at least $500,000 more. Haverhill is thirty-two miles north of Boston, and has an annual shoe business of over $10,000,000, and there are also woolen goods and hat factories.
The fire was confined to the shoe quarters. It was discovered a few minutes before midnight, in a store on Washington Street occupied by E. P. WENTWORTH, a sole-leather dealer.
The cause assigned is the bursting of an overheated stove. An alarm was sounded at once, and steamer No. 2 promptly responded. A heavy stream was put on in something less than eight minutes. The fire was at first thought to be only a slight one, and Chief West says it would have been, but for the bursting of steamer No. 2's hose.
The delay thus occasioned was most unfortunate. Two minutes later a sheet of flame seemed to wrap the entire building, and the firemen realized that they had an unusually strong enemy to cope with. The night was cold and clear, the wind blowing very strong from the north, and despite every effort of the entire fire department, the flames spread rapidly. The next building was also a wooden building.
In a remarkably short space of time not only ENDICOTT & ARNOLD'S but the adjacent large wooden buildings were wrapped in flames, and the air was full of sparks and flying cinders, blown by the wind. For an hour the fire confined itself to the north side of Washington street where wooden buildings prevailed, and it was hoped that the south side of the street might be saved. Such hopes were fruitless. Pieces of burning wood were blown by the wind in every direction, and at last FINLEY'S
block, a brick building on the south side of Washington Street, caught fire.
This was the starting point in the general spread of the fire on the south side, and the rapidity with which the flames spread was strikingly similar to the events of the opposite side. The department was practically powerless, and realizing this fact, dispatches were sent by Chief West to Lawrence for aid, and the efforts of his men were directed to the saving of the wooden and brick blocks at the end of Washington and Wingate Streets. Building after building on both sides of Washington Street, was soon enveloped in flames, and proved an easy prey.
The entire town had by this time been alarmed, and the streets in the vicinity were thronged with excited spectators. When the fact was known that the burning district was almost exclusively occupied by shoe manufacturers and leather dealers and that the laboring interests of the city were largely confined here also, the situation may be imagined. After mowing down the entire length of both sides of Washington street and taking the buildings on the north side of Wingate street, at 4 o'clock, the flames were practically powerless to do further evil, for the simple reason that there was nothing left to burn. This will be seen more clearly from the fact that the territory burned was in the shape of triangle, of which two sides were Washington Street. At daylight Haverhill's citizens saw the best business portion of the city an unsightly ruin of smoking brick walls. By and by even the walls, relieved of their slight support, tottered and fell, and the firemen were free to tread their way over piles of brick in the centre of Washington Street. Only two persons, firefighter JOSEPH ST. GERMAINE and a shoemaker, are known to be killed. The missing persons reported are probably frightened out of town for the present. Two or three tenement houses were burned, and about eighteen families are homeless.

Decatur Daily Republican Illinois 1882-02-20

article | by Dr. Radut