Ear: Fire

On July 8, 1885, The Daily Astorian reported a midnight blaze. The mishaps that followed could easily have turned the fire into a repeat of conflagration that swept the city's waterfront in 1883.

At 11:30 p.m July 7, a flame was spotted shooting up from the roof of H. Brown's saloon, across the wharf from the Point Adams cannery in Upper Astoria. The fire bell rang out.

No. 2's hose cart, while dashing toward the fire, broke down going up a hill. Then, the first fire engine, also racing, took a corner at a tilt, badly injuring a fireman riding along.

No. 2's engine rushed out next, right behind the second hose cart, which suddenly jumped off the road and flew into a gulch near Point Adams Co. A cart occupant was tossed out onto an enormous stump, then the cart crashed into the stump, and tipped over.

Thought to be dead when he was carried to the bank, when the man gained consciousness, he only complained of pain in his shoulder. In the same incident, two others were injured, including the mayor. 

No. 2's engine made it to the fire, but … the pumps wouldn't work. By then, the saloon was an inferno, and flames had engulfed the surrounding buildings.

At least 1,000 local men helped the fire department untangle the cart hose and pull it out of the gulch, prevent the fire from spreading and fight the fire, which was declared out at 2:30 a.m.

In the aftermath, only four small buildings were lost. The unfortunate saloon owner, who was intoxicated when the fire broke out, was carried out suffering from horrific burns, and was not expected to survive.

"It is necessary for everyone to be doubly careful about fire," the newspaper cautioned. "A five minutes' start would make a terrible blaze in any part of the city."

Good advice, even now.

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.