|Scene at Broadway and Montana streets|
By Butte Fire Chief Peter Sanger
As told to Fire Engineering magazine in 1905
At 8:30 o’clock on Sunday morning, September 24, an alarm was received from one of the main business districts of the city. In less than a moment’s time the department arrived at the scene, and found the fire to be in the boiler room, which was located in the sub-basement of the Symons Dry Goods company’s store. A general alarm was then turned in, and in five minutes’ time the whole department was on hand, including thirty-seven men.
The ground floor on Galena street was known as the basement, and was cut through on the alley line with a roadway or passage, open only at one end, over which the three upper stories formed an arch. Beneath this basement, or lower story facing on Galena street, was an excavation the whole length of the building, used as a sub-basement, in the Park street end of which stood the furnace and boiler room, and this was where the tire started.
The boiler room could be entered only by way of the store proper, or by a star, the entrance of which opened on to the arched passage already mentioned. The door to this entrance being heavily barred, and the passage forming a trap for the smoke and flames, it was an impossibility to reach the seat of the fire at once.
The basements were completely filled with stock, and the fire smoldered for some little time; but, after the flames reached the elevator-shaft, they spread rapidly, burning through the upper floors and enveloping the entire building, and made their way to the adjoining building, which included, to the east, the Barret & Jackey block, a two-story brick building, and the Woodworth block, a three-story brick building, which, with the Symons’ store building, were completely ruined, and a one-story brick building, which was partially burned.
All of these buildings ran the whole length of the block from Park to Galena streets. To the west stood the Ogden block, a three-story brick building, facing on Galena street, and running only to the alley. The interior of this building was considerably damaged by smoke and water.
To the south, across Galena street, and to the west, across the southern extension of Academy street, fire broke out in the Paumie block and Renshaw hall, but was soon extinguished in both places, the principal damage resulting from water and smoke.
During the morning a fierce gale was blowing to the northwest, and it was only by the hardest work that the fire was kept from spreading to the buildings on the opposite side of Park street. A firebrand, however, was carried beyond these to the roof of the public library, a three-story brick structure, on the farther side of Academy street, and one block above Park street.
This was burned down to the second story. Owing to the high wind, it looked for a while as though the fire were going to result seriously; but by one o’clock it was well under control, and no further apprehension was felt, upon the part either of the firemen or the citizens.
Assistance was offered us by the different departments throughout the State, and, when the situation was most discouraging, that of the Anaconda department was accepted. This department promptly responded, bringing a steamer and several thousand feet of hose.
Twenty-eight streams of water were thrown at one time during the course of the fire on Park street and at the library, and the water supply never once gave out. Taking into consideration the location and construction of the building in which the fire started, as well as the strong wind blowing at the time, the termination of the fire must be considered very fortunate and the ensuing loss very small.