12/13/09 466 W - + 9 - 4 Broughton Hospital Poultry Barn Burns, 1972

On Wednesday, December 20, 1972, a large poultry barn was destroyed at Broughton Hospital in Morganton. The damage was estimated at $45,000, including the loss of 5,200 young hens. The fire was so intense that apparatus was watered down to prevent damage.

A night watchman spotted the fire shortly after 9 p.m. The Morganton Fire Department was notified at 9:09 p.m. Arriving units found the building "on fire from one end to the other." Four pieces of apparatus and 42 firefighters from Morganton, Morganton's Carbon City station, and Salem Fire Department battled the blaze for three hours.

In addition to the intense fire, water pressure was a problem. The hydrants at the scene were fed from a six-inch water main that was gravity-fed from a nearby water tower. Fire Chief Carroll M. Sullivan later commented that the pressure was barely enough to supply a single two-and-a-inch hose.

There was 40 pounds static pressure at the hydrant, a captain said the next day, but only 10 pounds residual pressure.

An articulating platform from Morganton's Carbon City station was deployed. After the hoses were connected, and the nozzle aimed at the two-story, 275-foot long burning building, the water "ran about two or three seconds and then just petered out." Added the observer who reported the above, "[and] much to [Fire Chief's] disgust."

Crews saved a nearby barn and its contents, consisting of several hundred older chickens. Those lost in the blaze were young birds, and just beginning to lay eggs.

Walls of the structure also collapsed.

Firefighters were further hampered by construction on the access road to the building. Arriving units were forced to back up, and approach from a different direction.

The fire could be seen over the most of the city. Some 200 to 300 people gathered to watch, and traffic to the scene was congested "from the Mull Store along Enola Road to the I-40 entrance." Burke County Rescue Squad members assisted by directing traffic, as people arrived to watch the fire.

The hospital's manager, when asked about the water system, noted that other areas of the campus-- those with patients-- had larger water mains. There was also a power failure at the time of the fire, and a pump that supplied water from an underground tank didn't operate. This contributed to the lack of water.

Only engine was able to pump, and a single two-and-a-half inch line could be supplied.

Fire officials called the inside of the chicken house likely "very inflammable," due to the creosote that's sprayed inside each the building was cleaned out. The creosote serves to mitigate mites, dust, and feathers.

Broughton Hospital was built in 1875, and the campus had a fire department from the turn of the century until around 1970

Source: News Herarld, December 21, 1972.

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