1926 - WINNIPEG FIRE WAS SPECTACULAR. HIGH PRESSURE STREAMS PLAYING ON WALLS UNDERMINED THEM, CAUSING DEATH OF THREE MEN.
Winnipeg, Dec. 23. - In the spectacular Winnipeg Theatre fire today, fifteen minutes after the alarm had been sounded the entire surrounding district was enveloped in smoke. Flames burst through the frail structure a few minutes later.
Firemen forced their way into the building and although protected by smoke masks many were forced to retreat before the intense heat. As the fire worked its way through the auditorium and stage of the theatre a score of firemen rushed through the dense smoke with lines of hose. Upstairs, licked by flames, they succeeded in reaching the balcony. Several streams were played upon the interior and it was the force of the high pressure streams that undermined the walls and sent them crashing upon the men inside. Rescue crews were hurriedly organized and all available ambulances in the city summoned. Nine of the trapped men were recovered, most of them having sustained minor injuries and burns.
A. E. SMITH, driver of the fire chief's car, was struck by a falling beam and his condition is reported as serious with little chance of recovery. The debris from the walls and ceiling blocked all escape and the rescuers were forced to clear a passage before they were able to reach the buried men. A crowd of spectators that had gathered near the blazing structures was sent scurrying to safety as bricks and plaster were hurled to the street as walls collapsed.
A roll call revealed that MELVILLE, STEWART, and SHEARER were missing. Entry into the building was impossible at this time and not until the flames had been partly subdued were the rescuers able to resume their search. The body of MELVILLE was found under a heap of debris. He had been badly burned. Nearby was the gushing hose he had carried into the building. Gangs of men were rushed into the building but at a late hour this afternoon no trace had been found of either SHEARER and STEWART.
A number of small shops adjoining the theatre were damaged by fire and water, which is expected to materially increase the total property loss.
The building was one of the oldest in the city and has undergone reconstruction several times. It was built in 1883 and was known as Victoria Hall.
In 1905 the theatre was established as the home of the Winnipeg Permanent Players, a "stock" company which played for 24 years until the house was closed about a mouth ago.
Costumes and other theatrical property destroyed is valued at over $50,000.
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
December 24, 1926
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