08/21/10 386 W, 1 I - + 3 - 5 Baker Roofing Company, 1977


For your Saturday enjoyment, here's another vintage photo of the Raleigh Fire Department in action. Or an around-the-corner peek at same. This is back when downtown buildings were burning with a considerably greater frequency than present day. That's the Baker Roofing Company warehouse on Martin Street, that burned on January 3, 1977. Four engines and a ladder responded to the 12:15 p.m. blaze, reported the next day's New & Observer. More than 30 firefighters were on scene, and no injuries were reported. The fire was controlled within an hour and destroyed the rear third of the warehouse, which sat among several commercial and industrial properties on the block bound by Martin, Harrington, and Davie streets.

This was a lunchtime fire, so hundreds came to watch despite the freezing temperatures. A winter storm was sweeping through the state that day. The spectators watched as flames shot 50 feet into the air, and as crews climbed to the top of the neighboring buildings to fight the fire. (Is that done any more? Using roofs instead of ladders and platforms?) There were also pieces of flaming debris in the air, that crews had to dodge. The approximately 80 by 100-foot warehouse stored asphalt shingles and other roofing materials. The building had been used by the company since about 1918 (!), three years after the company was formed by the father of the owner W. P. (Bill) Baker.

The section that was destroyed, reported the News & Observer, consisted of wooden framing, one wall of aluminum siding, and three walls of brick formed by the adjoining structures. One exposure in the rear was protected with a water curtain, that being the Bill Bryant Upholstery Company at 318 Harrington Street. Workers at This End Up Furniture Co. and Sapp Welding Co., meanwhile, carried contents out of their buildings. Inside the burning warehouse, 24-inch-thick brick firewalls gave workers time to remove flammable caulking and cleaning materials from the unburned section of the structure. Those materials were removed by 12:45 p.m., reported that day's Raleigh Times.

Police were warning bystanders that there might be materials that could explode. No explosions occurred, but the property had a metal tank on stilts above the warehouse. That worried folks, but it remained upright. It contained a flammable liquid roof coating that the company no longer used. Click to enlarge:
  







  
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