Vintage: The Mission Painted Fabric Company Fire on 12 September 1935 in Los Angeles, US; two LODDs
A fire broke out at the Mission Painted Fabric Company at 1481 East 4th Street around some flammable liquid vats on 12 September 1935 in Los Angeles in the US, 86 years ago. At 10h16am on Saturday, 7 September 1935, Gordon Gould, superintendent of the Mission Painted Fabrics Company, discovered a fire in the plant located at 2481 E 4th Street. Immediately he notified the fire department and Engine Companies 2, 5 and 24, with Truck Companies 17 and 24; also Salvage 24 answered the alarm. The building contained many volatile liquids used in waterproofing fabrics. Especially one dipping tank through which the fabrics were run to process them; this tank being an open one. Immediately upon arrival of the fire companies, Engine 2, who was the first on the scene, proceeded to lay lines into the building. The front openings proved to be accessible and Captain Krumsiek and Fireman George Damron entered at a point in front of the water proofing tank. However, the fire had spread so rapidly that it was necessary to enter at other points of the structure and Engine 2 entered with another line in the opposite opening at the front of the building. Almost simultaneously Engine Companies No 5 and 24 had lines entering the building at the side and rear entrances. The fire was by this time covering the entire structure. However, it was quickly overcome and apparently no danger existed, the blaze having been extinguished. The pre-heated condition of the volatile liquids contained in the water-proofing tank caused a boil-over and re-igniting itself on the floor entrapped Captain Krumsiek and Fireman Damron who were immediately enveloped in flames.
Very heroic efforts were made to extinguish the flames enveloping the two men and accomplishment was made to a certain degree but not in time to avert the deaths of the two members involved. "Killed in line of duty" goes down in the record for Captain Lawrence W Krumsiek and Fireman George Damron. Very appropriate and fitting services that reflected nothing but credit upon the type of men who were being honoured and the services that they had rendered, not even hesitating at the cost of their own lives in the protection of life and property.
Fireman George Damron, atop a tall ladder in the quarters of Engine 2 was busy shining the towering brass pole and giving forth with "When It's Springtime in the Rockies," in his soft southern drawl, when he was rudely interrupted by the raucous jibes of Fireman Hinson of Truck 2 as to the quality of his singing. One word led to another and the good natured bantering ended with each promising to attend the funeral of the other. In their careless mood, little did they realise that death was preparing to deal a double hand to the engine house at First and Chicago streets. Later in the same day, Damron, in a more serious mood said to the engine company's auto-fireman, Tommy Williams, "Tommy, if anything should ever happen to me I want you to take care of my things.”
Events began to unfold rapidly on the morning of 7 September 1935. In the low two-story building housing the Mission Painted Fabric Company, 1481 East Fourth street, Elliot Theobold owner of the plant and Gordon Gould, the foreman, were standing by a waterproofing tank which was about twenty feet from the front door on the east side of the building. The building contained several such vats, which were filled with different types of mixtures, some of paint, some of solvent and wax, and other substances necessary to the processing of decorative canvas. In addition, on the floor throughout the building there were many open barrel-like containers holding the various inflammable materials from which the supplies of the vats were replenished. The vat near which the two men were standing was about 7 feet wide and 2 feet high, standing on legs three feet off the floor.
It held a mixture of wax, petroleum oil, gasoline thinner and paint pigment, through which rolls of canvas were fed to be waterproofed. The canvas then passed through dryers and stretchers and onto overhead racks hanging from the top of the building where the drying was completed.
It was near this dipping tank that the two men first noticed a flash of fire approximately ten inches from the floor. From this start the canvas rapidly ignited and the fire raced to the vats and in split seconds a muffled explosion swathed the entire vapour filled building with roaring flame. Luckily, only slightly singed, Theobold made a dash for the office to put through a call for help. But he no sooner lifted the receiver off the hook than the line went dead as the fire ate away the structure.
Outside the building a passer-by, noting the flames pouring through the openings of the building, pulled three different boxes in the neighbourhood; 6113 at Third and Pecan: 6121 at Fourth and Anderson and 6122 at Fourth and Gless streets. Of these the signal office transmitted box 6122 which brought Engines 2, 5, 17, and 24, Trucks 24 and 17, Salvage 24 and Acting Battalion Chief George Dyer of Battalion 7 to the scene.
At Engine 2s Captain Lawrence W. Krumsiek checked the register tape as the house gongs tapped out the signal and called out the location to his auto-fireman, Tommy Williams. As the big red wagon neared the fire Captain Krumsiek sized up the situation and ordered two lines laid from the plug at Fourth and Gless streets. Stopping in front of the building, extra lengths of hose were quickly pulled off and the officer then sent Williams and Fireman Bruce King with one line into a doorway in the centre of the building and taking George Damron with him clambered up onto the loading dock opening near the east end of the building on the Fourth street side. From this vantage point the two started to bore their way into the sea of flame.
While the men of 2s were so engaged other companies arrived from the west and south and the burning structure was soon surrounded with lines working from every vantage point. 24s went around to the east side of the building while 5s and 17s covered the west and front and the truckmen took care of the situation from strategically placed ladders and the roof.
In the seeming short space of a few minutes the principal fire was extinguished and all that remained was a few obstinate corners and several of the barrels which still continued to burn. The water by this time was running out of the building practically ankle deep and floating on top of it was paint, gasoline, wax and the other materials used in the plant's processes. Captain Krumsiek and Damron had penetrated well into the building when a cloud of vapour, presumably from one of the heated open containers laying around, flashed about the two men and simultaneously set fire to the flammables floating on the water they were standing in. As they quickly retreated they lost their footing on the slippery floor and fell amid the burning oils, but rising again they made their way to the outside of the building, emerging as though two living torches blanketed in flames. Comrades nearby ran to their assistance and quickly smothered the flames and removed their burning clothing. An ambulance was called from the Boyle Heights station and the two badly injured men were rushed to the Receiving Hospital.
Meanwhile CO 2. 17 was summoned and along with it Assistant Chief John G Johnson, in command of Division 1-A, arrived to take charge. It was a tight lipped, heavy hearted bunch of men that put out the rest of the fire and awaited news of their stricken brothers.
At Georgia street both men were found to have second and third degree burns on their faces, throats, hands and fingers, forearms and the legs up to the hips. Captain Krumsiek was in the worse condition of the two, for it was believed he had inhaled some of the flames as he had lain in them. Even one side of his metal helmet had been melted off by the terrific heat. This capable, well liked officer, earmarked for big things in the department by all who knew him, passed away on the following morning, 8 September, 9h45am, in the presence of his family.
George Damron, having possibly the worse external burns of the two but no internal burns, seemingly rallied for the first few days, then congestion of the lungs and urinary poisoning set in and after a very valiant fight he, too, died on 13 September.
Damron was born in Rising Star, Texas, on 24 March 1892. He married Miss Mildred Reese in 1914 and two daughters, Melrose and Charlotte, were born on their union. Coming to Los Angeles in 1922, he was appointed to the Los Angeles Fire Department on 5 September 1923 and spent most of his time on the job at Engine 2. During his extreme suffering, between the time of the accident and his death, there was never a murmur of complaint but always praise for those of his associates and superior officers under whom he served. Memorial services were held in the Little Church of the Flowers, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, under the auspices of the Relief Association, with Chaplain Cordell and honorary chaplain, Dr GA Briegleb, officiating. George Damron was placed to rest on a beautiful hillside overlooking the park.
Captain Krumsiek was born 25 January 25, 1897, at Corder, Missouri. He was appointed to the fire department 15 February 1926, made auto-fireman 1 July 1929 and appointed Captain 1 December 1932. He was survived by his widow, Irene A, his son, Donald, who is now a flight officer in the Army Air Corps, a daughter, Muriel, his sister, Emma and his brothers, Herbert, Frank, Edwin, Dan, Albert, Carl and Heinrich. Of these Herbert and Carl are members of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Funeral services for Captain Krumsiek were held at the Euclid Heights Methodist Church, with Rev Toothaker and Chaplain Cordell officiating and in attendance was the Honour Guard of the fire Fighters' Post, American Legion, as well as a host of sorrowing comrades and friends.
Memorial services for Fireman George A Damron were held in the Little Church of the Flowers at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, with Chaplain Cordell and honorary chaplain, Dr GA Briegleb, officiating. He now rests in eternity on a peaceful hillside overlooking the park.
Source: Los Angeles Fire Department