U.S. Patent Office

24 September 1877 Fire - Board of Inquiry Report

[Newspaper]

Publication: The New York Times

New York, NY, United States
p. 1


THE FIRE IN THE PATENT OFFICE.

REPORT OF THE BOARD OF INQUIRY APPOINTED

BY SECRETARY SCHURZ THE FIRE CAUSED BY

A STRONG FIRE OF PINE BOARDS IN THE BASEMENT,

THE SPARKS FROM WHICH IGNITED A WOODEN

GRATING ON THE ROOF GUTTER.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8. The Board of Inquiry to investigate the cause of the fire in the Interior Department building on the 24th ult., submitted their report this evening, together with the testimony of a large number of witnesses, covering several hundred pages of manuscript. The board, as the result of the investigation, state that there is no foundation whatsoever for the suppositions that the fire was caused by incendiarism or spontaneous combustion. They find that a fire was built of pine boards and a blower placed over the grate in the ladies' copying room, in the Ninth-street basement, on the morning of the day on which the fire occurred, and that the roaring of the fire excited the attention of persons in the room, and was the subject of comment by them at the time. The testimony of several witnesses who were upon the roof some time before the alarm was given, shows that a section of the wooden grating covering the gutter on the roof and lying immediately against the flue was found on fire, and was thrown off the roof into the yard on Ninth-street. The report says: "We think there can be no doubt that this dry pine grating was set on fire from sparks or burning cinders which came up through this flue. The amount of this grating which had been burned at the time the witnesses discovered it is variously estimated by them, but we conclude that not less than 30 square feet of boards had been destroyed. The witnesses state that they found a large quantity of live coals lying on the roof and in the gutter, and that the copper was so intensely hot that it had changed color, and in some places sunk down as though there was a hole underneath." The board, in conclusion, call the attention of the Secretary to the condition of several of the chimney-flues under the roof of the Seventh and F street wings of the building, which appear from personal inspection to have been defective and unsafe for a long time, and which, if not speedily repaired, may be the cause of further disaster.

Workmen had completed a temporary roof over the west wing of the Patent Office at dark this evening, and work was to have been vigorously pushed forward during the night with the aid of calcium lights, but a heavy rain prevented. That portion of the building over which the temporary roof has not been placed is protected as far as possible by canvas and oil-cloths, and but little damage is anticipated. A strong detail of clerks has been continued on duty during the night to insure the removal of books and papers if it should be found necessary. Considerable water is coming through the ceiling notwithstanding the precautions, but no particular damage results from it.

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Keywords:Fire : Patent Office
Researcher notes:The "insulator connection" is the loss of the patent models of the Brookfield, Hemingray, and Brooke insulator presses.
Supplemental information:The initial report of the fire may be seen at Article: 12677
Researcher:Glenn Drummond
Date completed:August 27, 2011 by: Glenn Drummond;