1930 - Downtown Blaze Sweeps Through Block - Thousands See $100,000 Fire Defy Fighters - Radio Exaggeration of Size Adds to Crowd; Full Crew Called.
Two Dare Death
Busses Driven Through Flaming Wall; Barrels Blast in Volley.
With exploding paint barrels throwing flames high into the air, fire Friday night swept a spectacular path through a downtown business block. Damage was estimated at $100,000.
The damaged property fronted the 600 blocks of Commerce and Jackson streets, between Jefferson and Market streets.
A radio announcer from a near-by studio, seeing the flames, announced the location and described the scenic effects with such gusto that a gigantic crowd of onlookers pressed to the scene.
The Dixie Motor Coach Corporation shops, 605-11 Jackson street, were destroyed. The blaze swept through the rear of the vacated West End Athletic Club room, 606 Commerce street, badly damaging it, and ate into the J. Finks dry goods company, 604 Commerce street, wrecking that place.
Gets to Hotel.
The blaze then leaped to the Rex Hotel, on the second floor of the two-story brick at 600 Commerce, at Jefferson. The hotel was gutted. Stocks and furnishings of the Buckingham Company, drugs, on the ground floor, were badly damaged by water, smoke and heat.
The Burton Barber College, 602 Commerce street, was wrecked, as was the Burton School of Beauty Culture, 206 Jefferson, adjacent to the building that houses the drug store and hotel.
The flames ate into the adjacent quarters of the Auto Tops concern, wrecking that place.
Other places that were damaged by the fire included L. W. Gardner, grocer, 608 Commerce street; the Union News Company; 214 Jefferson; the Service Cafe, 214 Jefferson, and the Williams Hotel, upstairs and Jackson and Jefferson.
5,000 Crowd Near.
Police estimated that 5,000 people jostled into the vicinity, viewing the fire at one time, and that 50,000 joined the cavalcades that jammed thoroughfares in efforts to arrive.
Attracted by the hyperbolie descriptions of the radio announcer, people were reported leaving their homes in near-by towns for a view of the spectacle, under the impression that the Dallas business district was being swept by an uncontrollable conflagration.
The fire started at about 9:30 o'clock and shrtly after 10 o'clock it was under control. At 11 o'clock reports were being received of streets being jammed by eager crowds in automobiles.
First reports of the fire were that it started in the Dixie Motor Coach shops. Employes of this concern said it apparently started in the club quarters and ate its way into the coach shops.
Drivers Dare and Do.
Fifteen coaches were in the shop when the fire started. Twelve of them were rescued, two of them catapulted through a wall of flames by daring drivers. The three remaining coaches were destroyed.
Although unwieldy because of its excessive numbers, the crowd of spectators stayed in the main tractable and fairly easily kept out of danger by police, who formed fire lines around the block. Sprays of water from temporarily diverted nozzles and from bursting hose lines assisted in urging the spectators to stand back.
On Jefferson Street dense clouds of choking smoke from burning rubber also added its urge of retreat to those who ventured too near.
A motorist who had left his car parked by the building returned to find it encircled with a mesh of pulsating hose lines. He was aided by firemen in removing his machine.
Sixteen Companies Out.
Sixteen engine companies and six hook and ladder companies were brought into play by Fire Chief Jess Coffman in quelling the flames. Fire fighters were deployed about the blaze from every side.
The city emergency ambulance and ambulances from several private concerns were dispatched to the scene.
At midnight it was reported that no one was injured by the fire.
The structures in the block were all of brick, part of them two stories and others one-story buildings.
Trolley traffic between Dallas and Oak Cliff and outlying cities was held up for more than an hour by the fire. Incoming and outgoing Fort Worth, Waco and Corsicana cars were halted.
A traffic jam in the area of the blaze also developed because of the many fire trucks and the large crowds of people. The Oak Cliff-Dallas viaduct was jammed.
For an hour and a half after the blaze, motor traffic to Oak Cliff was routed over the West Dallas Pike and the Eighth street road.
The Dallas Morning News
April 5, 1930
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