Seattle, WA Shipyard Waterfront Fire, Oct 1964
WORST FIRE IN 50 YEARS CHARS SEATTLE WATERFRONT.
Seattle (AP) -- The worst fire to hit Seattle's waterfront in 50 years raged out of control for more than four hours Wednesday at a shipyard where a $35 million Navy destroyer was undergoing an overhaul.
The USS Marshall was in drydock and could not be towed away because hull plates had been removed. Her crew was ordered to abandon ship but the vessel escaped major damage.
There was no early estimate of loss, but the fire caused major damage to an 8,500-ton wooden drydock valued by Todd Shipyard Corp. at more than $2 million.
Four men were hospitalized, but none was in serious condition. Three of the four were:
HENRY R. BASS, JR., age 32, SFD Engine Company No. 10, smoke inhalation.
JACK RUTHERFORD, age 25, SFD Engine Company No. 6, back injury.
HAROLD SKINDLO, age 54, dock worker, Todd Pacific Shipyards, smoke inhalation.
Dozens of others were treated for minor injuries.
The fire, fought by 175 firemen and scores of shipyard workers and sailors, started at the end of a pier where sheet metal work was being done. Fire Chief Gordon Vickery said welder's equipment might have touched it off, but shipyard officials aid the welders had left the area long before the blaze erupted.
The flames leaped along under the piers, feeding on creosoted timbers and oil-soaked planking. At one point firemen were outflanked when the fire ate through the flooring and had to retreat.
Tugs towed a Navy mine-sweeper and a large automobile ferry to safety.
The fire broke out about 2:40 p.m. and was under control about 7 o'clock. Some three hours later mopping up operations began.
The shipyard is located on Harbor Island in the south end of the city.
Wednesday's fire apparently started at the end of Pier 7, where men were doing some sheet metal work. Vickery blamed the fire last night on a welder's torch. However, the shipyard reported that the welder had been gone from the area for sime time before the fire broke out.
A workman who spotted the fire said:
"I saw this small fire and reached for a water hose. By the time I looked at the fire again it was too big for the hose. I ran to turn in the alarm."
The fire raced across into the adjoining Drydock No. 2, the smallest of Todd's four drydocks. Drydock No. 2 is a Navy dock, on lease for some years to Todd.
The destroyed Marshall was high and dry in the yard, undergoing overhaul that will prepare her for duty with the Naval Reserve in Tacoma. Ten minutes after the fire first was reported, it forced the destroyer skipper, Cmdr. J. F. Stanfil, Jr., to order his 108 crewmen to abandon ship.
Daily Chronicle Centralia Washington 1964-10-22