The Steamer "Prairie State" on Fire in the Harbor.
Narrow Escape of the Passengers
Children Thrown from the Upper Decks into the Arms of the Rescuers!
The Northern Transportation Company's propeller Prairie State, Capt.. Knapp, arrived at this port this morning at 5 o'clock, from below, on her way west, with a large load of passengers and freight. About half past nine o'clock she was in the act of starting from the dock, and had partially swung around in the stream, when she was discovered to be on fire near her boilers. The flames spread with alarming rapidity, and the passengers - most of whom were in the steerage - became panic stricken, and the wildest confusion was the result.
The steamer was hauled to the American Express Company's dock, the smoke issuing in dense volumes from all parts of her; an alarm was sounded, and the work of getting off the passengers commenced. A large crowd of citizens were immediately on hand, aiding in every way to get the terror stricken passengers ashore. They were all got together forward, and women and children escaped through windows, doors and gangways.
Men and women were seen rushing madly about the upper decks carrying children in their arms, some of which were thrown from the decks to people on the dock. At one of the windows, we saw a woman trying to make her escape, when a man pulled her back in order to get through himself. he was promptly knocked down by a person who was endeavoring to save the woman.
The brave firemen were promptly at the scene, and worked as we have ever seen men work before. In the very cidatel of the flames, which now had burst forth with fury; enveloped in dense clouds of black smoke, the fought the devouring element, regardless of the danger which surrounded them, and soon their efforts began to tell. The engines were all worked rapidly, and effectually throwing floods of water into the burning craft. The decks were chopped through, and the hose pipes properly paced so as to get water into the immediate locality of the fire. After about one hour's work, the flames were fairly gotten under, and the Prairie State saved from the destruction which seemed imminent.
The Captain and crew also worked faithfully as did many of our citizens, and to their well directed efforts may be attributed the evasion of a great loss of property. The officers and employees of the Northern Transportation Company were active in taking care of the frightened passengers and seeing that they received all the attention necessary to make them comfortable. Their danger was not from the fire, but the panic which overtook them, and made them almost unmanageable. if they had stayed aboard the boat on the forward deck not one of them would have been injured.
It we are not mistaken, the Prairie State took fire some years since in this very spot and was then badly injured. had the accident happened a few moments later, after the steamer had left the harbor, the loss of human life would have been fearful. The passengers will be sent on tomorrow morning by another boat of the line. It is thought that but little injury has been done to the freight and baggage, though the boat is in pretty bad condition. There are rumors of loss of life flying about the streets, but they are believed to be groundless. We have made diligent inquiry, and can hear of no missing persons. Some were slightly injured in escaping from the boat, but none severely.