Fire in Colorado Springs!

Colorado Springs business district on Pike Peak Ave and Tejon St.
credit: Denver Public Library

On January 12, 1900, the thriving business district on Tejon Street in Colorado Springs was rocked by a fire.  The fire was noticed around 4 a.m. by a waiter working at the Blue Front restaurant.1 It apparently originated in the basement and soon consumed much of the Nichols & Co. block of the street.  There was a high wind2 that night and the fire was severe and difficult  enough to control, that not only were the professional firefighters (which had only been established in 1894) alerted, but also the volunteer firefighters.3

College Hose Co. Volunteer Fire Dept in Colorado Springs around 1900
credit: Denver Public Library

In Colorado Springs in 1900, the act of putting out a fire was much harder than it is today.  While there were horse driven fire wagons with steam engines available at the time, images indicate that Colorado Springs still utilized the man-pulled hose on a spool-like apparatus that was attached to two large wheels.  The pressure required to move the water through the hose was done by a hand cranked engine.  The water was provided by a reservoir northwest of town and piped through town to its twenty fire hydrants.  Through their best efforts, the professional and volunteer firefighters were able to contain the fire to the Nichols & Co. block only and extinguished the fire fully by 8 a.m that morning.4

The main victims of the fire were the May Clothing company with a monetary loss of $80,000, the Nepol Grocery company with a loss of $20,000, and the Waite Shoe company, also with a loss of $20,000 due to water and smoke damage. Other smaller businesses were also affected by the fire.  The total loss was originally estimated at $140,000,5 but a later report gave the amount as $159,000.6

Today we are very grateful for the amazing willingness of the men and women who protect us from fire and make our lives safer.  We can also greatly appreciate the firemen from 1900 that not only had to put out the fires, but also pull the one-ton fire reel to the scene and then fight the fire.  Truly incredible!

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Arian Osborne
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