1900 - Gas Plant Burns. Gas and Electric Light Plants Destroyed Early Monday Morning.
At 2:30 Monday morning the round building covering the gas holder at the gas and electric light works was discovered to be in flames. The building was a frame structure and was a mere shell to protect the big inverted tank from the elements, and it took but a short time for the building to be enveloped in fire in all its parts. The fire appears to have caught on the south side of the structure, and its origin seems to be unknown. No light or fire was ever used about the building and there is nothing but a stretch of prairie south of it to the Great Northern railway tracks. It is therefore difficult to understand how the fire could have caught in the place it must have originated. The frame structure was entirely consumed, every vestige of the building being burned and the steel framework inside, which braced the big columns upon which the tank was balanced when as it raised when the volume of gas was increased, are warped and twisted by the heat.
When the fire was discovered, and attempt was made to turn in an alarm but Mr. SUMMERS, who was in charge, found it impossible to work the telephone and was obliged to run to his house several hundred yards away to turn in the alarm. Because of this delay the frame structure was nearly consumed before the department reached the scene and the tar roof of the purifying and meter building, about fifty feet to the north was on fire, the flames having been carried by a strong wind. It was necessary to lay a hose from a hydrant 500 to 600 feet away and when the water was turned on it is said the pressure was so light that water could not be thrown on the roof. As the purifying building is separated from the generating room by a thick fire wall of brick, it was thought that the latter would not catch as it is higher than the others and is covered by a steel roof. The fire, however, ate its way from the basement of the purifier room to the basement of the generator room and thence up through the roof and this building the fire communicated to the one just north containing the big gas engine and dynamo of the electric lighting plant and this structure was soon in ruins.
The net result of the fire as summed up in the morning was the utter destruction of the of the tank building, the unroofing and gutting of woodwork of all the brick buildings, the walls of which, with the exception of the south side of the generator building, being, for the most part, standing.
The gas holder was nearly empty at the time of the fire, and preparations for gas making to refill it were in progress when the fire broke out. The top of the holder was badly warped by the heat above it, but no air gaining access to the tank, there could be no explosion. After the fire had died out, a heavy casting dropped upon the tank and cut a big hole in it and the gas escaped without taking fire.
Aberdeen Weekly News
Aberdeen, South Dakota
August 2, 1900
Visit Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA
Discover the people who lived there, the places they visited and the stories they shared.