$60,000 Holyoke Fire Ruins Mohican Market

by Laurel | December 18th, 2013

17 December 1935

High Street, The Mohigcan Market

High Street, the Scene of the Fire

Stores affected by the fire (from the far right to left in above image) Little Frank Auto Appliance Shop,
The Mohican Market, next storefront with yellow awning was the Quality Silk Shop location,
though the sign above it now reads Forbes, and finally at the corner of Dwight St.
is the Holyoke National Bank. Click through on the image to enlarge.

Gas Overcomes Many, Woman, 72, Saved from Suffocation by Doctor, Friend
Quality Silk Shop and little Frank Store Damaged by Smoke, Water
Fumes of Ammonia Drop Many Firemen

Forced to Use Lung Motor After Inhaling Gas — Two Chiefs Forced to Quit — Police Control Crowds

Holyoke, December 16 — A score of firemen were partially overcome by ammonia gas fumes tonight when a $60,000 fire damaged the building occupied by the Mohican Market at 215-217 High Street near city hall. Several persons had narrow escapes from smoke suffocation. The case was not determined.

The fire broke out at about 7:30 p.m. and a second alarm was rung in at 8:15. The lung motor of the fire department was brought into use early in the fight against the flames. As fireman after fireman was hit by the heavy acrid fumes from the basement refrigerator plant, they were revived by the apparatus and sent back to work.The most severely affected by the fumes were Deputy Chief Michael Mahoney and Lieut. William J. Shaughnessy. They had to be brought up from the basement by Deputy Chief Daniel McLean and several firemen assisted by spectators. They were helpless and had to be carried to the open air. They partially recovered but were taken to the fire station.

Wet Towels Used As Masks

Dr. Stanley Cox arrived at the scene early and assisted with the men hit by the fumes. Fortunately there were no serious injuries and fumes were later met with gas masks and supplemented with many wet towels. Police did not get fully organized for almost a half hour after the fire was discovered and large crowds milled around the scene. Finally a squadron of police arrived on the scene and kept spectators back of fire lines. The most difficult task in this fire fighting aside from that experienced with the gas fumes was that of getting control of the fire that ran up the partition between the market and the Quality Silk Shop next door. It seemed to be impossible to get at in in the basement and so resource was made to chopping the wall of the market and to work on the floor above. This proved a long, hard, job.

How the escape of the gas fumes from the ammonia system started is not clear and an explosion is hinted at. Manager James J. Kennedy left the market at about 6:30, everything in order. When the alarm was first sounded it looked like a small fire but very soon huge volumes of smoke billowed up both front and rear.

Most difficult was the task in the basement where as soon as the men started to get at the heart of the blaze they were knocked out by the ammonia fumes. As a result they were sent down in relays and replaced every few minutes. Most of the “knocking out” was for short period but the fumes affected eyes and throats.

Market is Damaged

Great damage was done to the interior of the Mohican market necessitated by the chopping involved. Glass counters were smashed and goods turned topsy-turvy. Manager Kennedy estimated his loss as about $25,000 as he had just gotten hin his Christmas supply. Most of the market stuff was ruined by water or smoke. it will take many days for the market to be put in condition again and a new lot o goods will have to be secured.

The stock of the Quality Silk Shop, 221 High street, next door, was practically ruined by smoke, entailing a loss that Edward Forbes could not determine with exactness but would approximate $12,000 to $15,000. With the aid of police and volunteers the  stock next to the partition, where one of the biggest fights was made by the firemen, was moved across the store. The store may be put out of the running for Christmas with smoke loss wholly. No insurance can make up for their Christmas trade loss, Mr. Forbes said.

The store north was the Little Frank Auto Appliance store at 213 High Street. The employees of the store, headed by the manager, Wilbur M. Gottsche, carried the stock on the basement floor to a high level, saving damage by water. Their damage by smoke is hard to estimate but it is not likely to be more than $3,000.

The damage to the building occupied by the Mohican Market and silk store is the largest. It was caused largely by chopping that could not be avoided. the building is owned by the Holyoke National Bank. Insurance is believed to be sufficient to cover the smoke, fire and water loss on all the buildings.

Miss Mary Griffin, 72, narrowly escaped death from suffocation and might have been smothered unnoticed but for the timely work of Dr. L. J. Pereira, whose dental suite covers the greater portion of the second floor, and Thomas Smith, 35, a friend of the woman.

Upon learning of the fire, Dr. Pereira hastened to the scene, Realizing that Miss Griffin, who cares for his office, might not have been warned he hastened through the smoke-filled upper hallways. He was accompanied by Smith, who had arrived a few moments before.

Both men felt their way through the corridors, up stairways to the woman’s room. They found her hysterical in her night clothes so overcome by fear that she refused to move. They carried her from the third story to the ground floor where she later was taken to the home of friends and given medical attention.

Firemen apparently were unaware of the presence of anyone in the upper floors and confined all their efforts to fighting the flames on the ground floor and basement. They did not suspect that smoke had billowed through the upper floors so dense that it would be impossible to remain there for more than a minute without being overcome.

Both Dr. Pereira and Mr. Smith were nauseated when they got to the ground with the woman and had to be given a “shot” from the police inhalator, which was operated by Officer Robert Neil of the traffic squad.

The only others in the upper floor of the building at the time were the family of Henry Demerais, which included his wife and several grown children. They were warned after the first heavy smoke filtered into the home and made for the exit.

The action of Dr. Pereira and Smith can be appreciate, for then they started down the the woman towards the only exit they had to grope their way. Wladslaw Wadnerlich, janitor and elevator operator at the Holyoke started down with the woman towards the National Bank Building and had closed the fire door through which exit is made to the street. Fortunately for the rescuers of the woman one window in the long corridor had been opened admitting a little air and light.

Gas Supply Shut Off

Great difficulty was experienced in shutting off the ammonia gas at the supply tank, it being nearly impossible for the firemen to get at the control valve. Finally by the use of a gas mask and air lines of the the G. & E. department, by which fresh air is fed into the mask, two firemen were able to go down into the basement and shut off the gas. the two were Louis Judd of the Central fire station and John McDonald of the South Holyoke station. A G. & E. man accompanied them while another pumped the fresh air and others guided the air line.

About 11:30 there was a fresh burst of trouble, large quantities of smoke coming up at the center of the store and under the fruit stand in the center. this was taken care of in short order but more chopping was necessary. The store looked tonight as though struck by a cyclone.

Three pumps were at work tonight getting the water out of the cellars. in addition to the Mohican cellar there was about a foot of water in the Little Frank basement and several inches in the basement of the bank.

Coffee was served in the silk shop and to the firemen at work. This work was in charge of Clarence L. Farr of the emergency corps.

From The Springfield Republican

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