Bay City, Mich., May 1. — Fanned by a high north wind, a fire which broke out in the north filing room of the main mill of the Handy Box factory on Henry street, south, about 3:20 o’clock Tuesday afternoon destroyed the main mill, a small saw mill and practically destroyed the sawdust bin, besides in the neighborhood of $50,000 feet of lumber in the yards and on cars, entailing a loss roughly estimated at $100,000 to $125,000. Detroit Trust Co. officials, receivers of the concern, who are on the scene today, declined to make any definite statement of the loss but said it was fully covered by insurance. John Buzak, a machine operator in the main mill was slightly scorched from the flames when he went back into the burning building to get a coat he had left there. This was the only accident.
The fire was one of the most spectacular that has occurred in Bay City in years, rolls of black smoke filling the air for blocks around and flames for some time shooting 100 feet or more into the air. The fire attracted a large crowd which handicapped the firemen in their work at times.
The fire was discovered by a worker in the filing room shortly after 3:15 o’clock and he at once notified Charles Rexer, mill foreman, who ran to the office, a few steps away and turned in an alarm. “When I left the filing room there was just a small blaze,” he said. “On my return, which could not have been over a half a minute later, half the main mill seemed to be in flames. I never say a fire make such headway as that did. I saw that the main mill was doomed and it was useless to use a small hose that the men had drawn from a hydrant in the yard. The fire spread so rapidly that we did not even have time to get out a hose we have in the mill.
Save Part of Plant
Shortly after the arrival of the first fire companies, the main mill was a mass of flames and a general alarm brought additional fire fighting apparatus to the scene. Many streams of water were poured into the building and surrounding buildings on the factory property but, fed by highly inflammable material the fire raged for two hours before it was brought under control. Only the concrete foundation remained of the main mill, while the small saw mill was leveled to the ground. The firemen saved the big saw mill, close by from destruction, tons of water being poured on it.
About ten minutes before the fire broke out nine cars of white pine and balsam pine were switched onto the company’s track, five of these on the inside track to get the four cars on the outside track. A switching crew managed to get the four cars on the outside track away from the burning main mill before they caught fire but the five cars inside were a total loss, several of them being burned to the trucks of the cars.
When the roof of the main mill fell in, about a half an hour after the fire started, an 80-foot smokestack, towering above the power house which was fastened on one side with guy-wires leading to the roof of the mill, also fell. The stack fell to the north of the power house and people standing about scurried for safety in time to escape injury.
The main mill building was a one story frame structure, 200 by 108 feet, with a concrete base.
When the fire was at its height a brand landed on a residence about a block away and set fire to the roof. Bystanders procured a pail of water and a ladder and extinguished the blaze before it had made any headway.
Mr. Rexer said that there was about 100,000 feet of lumber on the five cars that were destroyed in the yards. There was a large number of piles of lumber in the yards that also was burned.
The mill was running ten hours a day, except Saturdays, when it ran nine hours and employed about 100 men, according to Mr. Rexer. Besides the large amount of lumber destroyed, five full cars of finished boxes in the main mill that were being prepared for shipment were also destroyed.
Whether the mill will be rebuilt is not known. This marks the second big fire that the Handy interest have suffered in the past three months, a big blaze in the Handy block at Fifth avenue and Water street, gutting that building.