Bay City, Mich., Feb 20 — Fire which presumably started in the southwest corner of the basement caused about $100,000 damage to the building, stock and fixtures contained in the T. L. Handy block, Fifth avenue and Water street, this morning. The loss is partially covered by insurance. Oftentimes the flames leaped through the second story windows and holes in the roof, endangering other nearby buildings. A double-brick wall which separated the block from that owned and occupied by John B. Walther kept the fire from spreading to the adjoining building.
The building was occupied by Peter Bressette, doing business as Joe, the Shoe Man Co., the Peoples’ Credit Clothing Co., and the Nitschky-Grant Electric Co. The shoe store suffered the largest loss. This morning Ernest Bressette, manager of the store, said that the loss of his stock and fixtures will amount to nearly $34,000 with $19,000 insurance carried. P. W. Schroeder, manager of the clothing store, said that their goods which, were completely ruined, were worth about $30,000. He did not know whether the company held insurance on the stock. Herman L. Nitschky, owner of the electrical store, said that his loss will amount to about $10,000 with about $4,000 insurance. John B. Walther this noon said that stock in the south end of his store was considerably damaged by smoke.
At noon Mrs. Charles Handy, owner of the building, was unable to state whether or not insurance was carried on the building. Mr. Handy when interviewed at the fire this morning would not be quoted on the matter. Fire Chief Crampton this noon placed the damage to the building at $20,000. The property was assessed at $35,000.
The origin of the fire was undetermined early this afternoon. The fire was one of the most spectacular of many months and necessitated all fire companies, except two, to respond with both battalions of men. More than 60 firemen worked on the fire for more than three hours before the dense columns of smoke and flames subsided so that they could enter the building with safety. After an hour’s battle, the fire men, wearing gas masks, attempted to work on the second floor but the smoke drove them back.
Joseph P. Hennard, a roomer on the second floor of the building adjoining the burning structure, was trapped in his room by the heavy smoke which filled the rooms and hall ways. Firemen shot a ladder to his window and he was taken to the street.
The first alarm was sent in about 6:45 o’clock by a passerby who chanced to see the smoke issuing through small apertures in the building. A second alarm, a double-six was sounded immediately after the firemen arrived and at one o’clock this afternoon the last truck had not left the scene.
The fire was raging when the firemen broke in. A showcase arrangement in the shoe store greatly handicapped the men. With the windows broken out the flames shot out of the store at all points and it was nearly two hours before firemen would enter the place.
About eight o’clock Assistant Chief Dennis Rivet removed the firemen from the south side of the building, fearing that the brick wall which bulged greatly, would topple. Not long afterwards the first floor of the place, with two safes on it, collapsed into the basement which was flooded with water.
The fire gutted the entire place. The small amount of stock which escaped the blaze was so water soaked that the owners declared it worthless. The partition which separated the shoe and clothing store was burned out.
There was five feet of water in the basement when the firemen started to pump it out. Chief Crampton said that he believed 225,000 gallons of water had been used on the fire. Figuring from the dimensions of the building, the basement contained more than 187,000 gallons of water after the flames had been put out.
The building was 100 feet long and 50 feet wide and was built only a few years ago. The shoe company occupied the southwest corner with show windows on both streets. The clothing store faced Water street and the Nitschky-Grant store faced Fifth. The second story was unoccupied.
During the first few hours of the fire the firemen, cold from the ice which covered their clothing, and some of them fatigued after having worked Tuesday and last night, were served hot buns and hot coffee by John H. Walther.