The Railways of Ottawa

Finding No. 21   Railway Structures Destroyed (Mainly) by Fire

Ottawa, Hall Fuels Ltd., warehouse, coal trestle, stockpiles (also 22 railway cars) burned 26 June 1956

Ottawa Journal 27 June 1956

The Hall Fuel Company's coal dispersal chute and some 2,000 tons of coal were reduced to ashes last night in a spectacular Preston street fire that endangered an entire block of homes and sent one fireman to hospital.
Overcome by smoke. Fireman James Butler was treated at Civic Hospital and later allowed to go home.
5,000 Watch Blaze.
A crew of 40 from five city fire stations brought the blaze under control at 1 a.m. two hours after the alarm was turned in. Emergency squads of police rerouted traffic and controlled a crowd estimated at more than 4,000.
John Hall, president of the fuel company, said the loss was between $40,000 and $50,000.
Witnesses said the fire, of unknown origin, leaped up at the east end of the wood frame structure and swept its 350-foot length in three minutes. The wind carried flames to the rear entrances of homes on the south side of Arlington avenue. Sparks and burning debris fell In alarming concentrations on homes one block north of Arlington.
Five Homes Damaged.
Five Arlington avenue homes were extensively damaged, mostly by smoke and water and several families whose beds were sodden spent the night with neighbors.
The coal chute, which ran from Rochester street almost to Preston street, was constructed before the Hall Company took over the plant from the Buttterworth Company in 1935, and is situated beside the Canadian National Railways track. It contained four empty freight cars. Some 250 tons of coal had been unloaded yesterday afternoon.
2,000 Tons of Coal
Sandwiched between yards of the French Lumber Company, the gasoline tanks of Ottawa-Toronto Motorways and a number of old wood frame homes, the fire posed a threat of major proportions.
Radiant heat reached such an intensity, officials of the Motorways firm ordered more than 12 local delivery truck removed some distance from their garage. . Flames appeared in isolated spots in the French Lumber woodpiles and were quickly put out by firemen.
Another fire of unknown origin caused extensive damage in the lumber company's premises June 16.
Report Grass Fire,
Nearby residents reported seeing a grass fire near the coal chute Tuesday afternoon. This possibility was being investigated although police and firemen said no alarm had been turned in earlier.
First alarm was recorded at Fire Department headquarters at II p.m.. It came from an unidentified telephone caller.
By the time firemen arrived on the scene, flames had soared to 160 feet turning night into day over a 10-block area. The spectacle was clearly visible more than 10 miles away.
Seen From Long Distance.
Queries about the fire came by telephone to The -Journal from Connaught Raceway. Eastview and Upland Airport
A group of Arlington avenue residents used garden hoses to fight isolated fires on rooftops and under the eaves of four homes. Gerald Lanthler called for professional assistance when water pressure failed as the fire equipment came into full use.
The home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Kinal was saturated smoke-filled. The couple and their. three children, Peter, 9, and Olga, 6, and Stanley, 5,  spent the night in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Wityshyn.
Mrs. Wityshyn said she would find room somehow tor others if sleeping space was required.
Most of the families, however, crowded into front rooms untouched by water.
Two families with six children, residing in one-half of a duplex, spent the night In two rooms They were Mr. and Mrs. Rudolphe Charleboi and their five children, and Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Gordon with one child.
Mr. Lanthler said he was in his bedroom when he saw flames shoot from the coal yard.
Used Garden Hose.
"I ran downstairs and broke open the garage door. I was afraid for the house so I used the garden hose until firemen came."
Although flames reached danger point on some homes, no furniture was removed. Most of the neighbors were confident firemen could control the fire before it ate into the residential section.
The worst damage came from water and rolling clouds of smoke which replaced flames . shortly before midnight. At this time, firemen were able to throw ladders against the side of the coal chute and play streams ol water on glowing coals.
Police said the crowd was orderly most of the time. However, several hundreds who walked or were pushed too close came under the hoses accidentally on at least two occasions.
Freight Train. Delayed.
Traffic was rerouted from the corners of Gladstone and Preston, Gladstone and Booth and Rochester and Arlington. An eastbound CNR freight train was delayed briefly but allowed through when the danger of flames spreading abated.
Mr. Hall said the building was insured. Decision on re-building plans would be made after final assessment of the loss.
Directing firefighting operations was Chief Maynard Dolman. His lieutenants were Deputy Chief Armand Page and District Fire Chiefs Alex Macfarlane and William Nash.

Ottawa Citizen 27 June 1956

More than 1,000 tons of coal and coke were turned into a mountain of flaming fuel late last night when a two-alarm fire destroyed the Hall Fuel Ltd. warehouse at 333 Preston Street and spread to towering stockpiles in the yard.
- -
Eighteen of 22 coal hoppers on the property were destroyed in the $50,000 blaze.
- -
Five carloads of coal, each of 50 tons, were delivered to the yard a few hours before the blaze broke out at 11o'clock last night
In addition to the loss of the building and contents, four empty coal freight cars that had been unloaded were damaged beyond repair.  They had been left standing on the upper loading trestle on the roof of the structure.
- -
A CNR freight train was held up for 10 minutes while firemen poured water from hoses on the railway embankment.
Updated 19 October 2021

Top     Home   Findings   Circle