The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Russia (Propeller), U110063, fire, 11 Jul 1893

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      The Lakawanna Liner RUSSIA Badly Damaged By Fire.
      They were loading the Lackawanna liner RUSSIA with bales of rage and jute at 10 o'clock this morning at the foot of State Street, just across the Creek from where Clarence Dingman dived to death from the Watson elevator.
      The big bales were being rushed down a chute into the hold. Two went down side by side. One of them caught and the other rushed by, just brushing the on which was stuck.
      There was a little puff of smaoke, a flash of fire, and both bales tumbling into the hold spread the fire.
      Ten minutes the fire department had a most stubborn fire to fight and to took them two hours to drown out the flames.
      As soon as the men in the hold saw the smoke, they rushed on deck and gave the alarm. The RUSSIA's hose was turned into the hold but did little execution.
      In the meantime the RUSSIA's big whistle was tooting the fire alarm - six whistles, and so were all the tugs and boats in the harbor and creek.
      The fire tug JOHN M. HUTCHISON got around to the RUSSIA quickly. The fire had eaten its way up through the hatchway to the woodwork between decks and the cabin work above.
      The fire itself, however, was in the hold, and it was going right cheerfull when the HUTCHISON and the fire engines on land began to pour water into her. The flames were fought from every side, and the firemen of Buffalo gave one more illustration of their ability as scientific fire fighters, for they kept the flames in the hold and then went down and fought them inch by inch in the darkness and the overpowering heat of the hold.
      The RUSSIA was loaded with baled jute and rags, French clay and wood pulp. The loss will probably amount to between $15,000 and $20,000.
The RUSSIA, Capt. Henry Murphy commanding, was built by the King Iron Works in 1872 and has a capacity of 1800 tons, although she is registered at 1400. She is 240 feet long, 35 feet beam and fitted with two Steeple compound engines and has twin screws.
      She used to run from Buffalo to Chicago, but when the NEWBURGH was lost last fall off Long Point, the RUSSIA was sent to Green Bay, Wis. The steamer was valued at $75,000.
      At noon the RUSSIA was full of water and had listed to port 18 feet. The fire originated in the after hold just beyond the third bulkhead, which is of iron. That fact saved the engines, for they stood close to the bulkhead. William Brown, the Engineer, stuck to his room through all the fire, and kept his boilers full of water.
      Michael Lynch, one of the RUSSIA's deck hands, says that the fire broke out just forward of the engine room in the hold, which is about amidships, and his story agrees with the others, in that the fire was caused by spontaneous combustion of the jute. This is one of the peculiar qualities of jute, and less than two years ago the ROANOKE of the Clover Leaf Line burned at the same dock, in the same place and from the same cause. There are marks on the dock at the present time left by that fire.
      By the time the fire boat and the firemen arrived the fire had burned up through the two decks damaging the engine-room partitions and eating into the forward cabin. Two powerful streams were at once thrown through the side gangway from the stand-pipes of the fireboat JOHN M. HUTCHISON.
      The water side was seen to be the "vantage ground," and under the direction of Chief McConnell and Assistand Chief Murphy other streams were at once added until five small streams and two large ones were playing into the hold.
      Nothing short of drowning will put out a fire in jute, and with this idea in mind, streams from the fire boat and from the engines on the other side were concentrated. The iron hulls of the RUSSIA confined the blaze to the center of the boat, and with the deluge of water playing into the hold the fire gradually succumbed after a most stubborn resistance.
      Chief McConnell acknowledges that it was a "cranky" fire and he has seen a few of the same order. The fighting ground was confined to one hatchway, and necessarily cramped the firemen. All their efforts had to be confined to the first deck, for a continuous outpour of suffocating smoke came up from the hold and with no means of fresh air entering those going below would have been speedily stifled.
      As the hold filled with water the fire began to recede before it, and after two hours, went out.
      The harbor tugs rendered valuable assistance before the fire boat arrived. The R.H. HALSTEAD was the first to lend a stream, followed by the W.I. BABCOCK, R.H. HEBARB and O.W. CHEENEY, which took the passengers off the steamer ELDERADO. when she ran on Horseshoe Reef last Saturday night.
      Buffalo Evening News
      Tuesday, July 11, 1893

      . . . . .

Steam screw RUSSIA. U. S. No. 110063. Of 1,501.77 tons gross; 1,334.57 tons net. Built Buffalo, N.Y., 1872. Home port, Buffalo, N.Y. Of 502 H. P.
      Merchant Vessel List, U. S., 1884

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: fire
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $15,000
Cargo: inc
Freight: jute, rags, &c.
Remarks: Repaired
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 42.88645 Longitude: -78.87837
William R. McNeil
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Russia (Propeller), U110063, fire, 11 Jul 1893