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Unit 6: Set 6: Capitol Fire - The Fire - Fire Marshall's Report

Introduction | The Fire | New Capitol | The Strike | Cornerstones | Activities

The Fire | Cause | Fire Marshall Report | William Laist

This report appeared in the Bismarck Tribune Jan 2, 1931. Written by assistant Fire Marshall Frank Barnes.

“As per your request I am herewith submitting a report of the investigation made of the capitol building fire which occurred Sunday morning, December 28, 1930, somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 o’clock. The investigation, so far, was made by Chief Assistant Fire Marshal Frank Barnes, who arrived at the scene of the fire about 30 minutes after the fire alarm was sounded. On his arrival at the premises of the fire it was impossible to ascertain just what cause this fire or the particular point where the fire originated.

The fire was soon out of control and spread throughout the building very rapidly. The Bismarck fire department worked diligently in battling the flames but it was a losing battle from the start as the water pressure was inadequate and the fire had too much of a start.

“Mr. Joe Winkel, a janitor, who was alone in the building at the time the fire was first discovered and who turned in the alarm, states as follows: That he had been in the janitor room about an hour before he discovered the fire and was working in the Bank Examiner’s office on the ground floor which is located in the extreme southeast corner of the building and that about 8 o’clock he heard an unusual roaring noise in the building and left his work and went out of the office to ascertain what it was, but did not then discover the fire and returned to this work.

In a few minutes he heard a loud noise resembling an explosion. He then went outside of the building and discovered smoke and flames coming through the southeast windows of the state licensing department offices, attached to the attorney general’s offices on the third floor, which were located right above the janitor room on the second floor.

It is our belief that the noise heard resembling an explosion was caused by a falling beam or some other heavy object that had been burned loose by the fire.

Our opinions and conclusion as to the origin of this fire, at this time with the meager information available and disclosed, are that the fire started in the janitors room on the second floor of the building about one-half hour or more before it was discovered and alarm sounded, cause of the fire being spontaneous combustion or some other unknown cause.”

Source: Bismarck Tribune fireday 2 January 1931.

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