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Local History

Fire on Jordan Creek

Fire on Jordan Creek Threatens Cars and Depot

"The Jordan Creek caught fire this morning at 10:30 o’clock. Fear that the blaze on the surface of the little stream would leap the banks caused the south side fire department to be called out and caused Frisco switchmen to hastily remove strings of cars from tracks near the creek. The firemen extinguished the burning stream.

"The fire was caused by oil and grease refuse run into the Jordan from the gas plant on Main Street at the Frisco passenger station and from other manufacturing establishments along the stream. The oil on the stream is readily noticeable by anyone who passes that way and the fire is supposed to have been caused by someone throwing a lighted match into the stream at a point about 500 feet below the Frisco freight house.

"Jordan Creek becoming ignited and burning like a house on fire was the most astonishing news that has reached the south side fire department for many moons. The alarm came in over the telephone with a request that the automobile chemical engine be brought to the fire at once to extinguish Jordan Creek. At the same moment a man at Main and College Streets yelled and signaled to Fireman Jeff Gott that there was a fire somewhere on Main Street. Gott ran into the engine house at the same time the fireman at the telephone yelled the alarm. The chemical engine, hose reel and hook and ladder truck were taken to the fire but the truck proved to be entirely useless as the fire was kept in the stream below the level of the surrounding ground.

"The fire occupied a length of about sixty feet in the middle of the creek. The blaze was not great but smoke boiled out of the Jordan in clouds that were black, heavy and choking. Ten minutes’ work by the firemen extinguished burning Jordan.

"The Jordan Creek after crossing Main Street flows a few feet in the open and disappears beneath the lengthy Frisco Freight house. The course of the stream runs beneath the building for the full length of the freight house. It was feared for a while that the fire would work up stream and into that part of the channel beneath the freight house. Had the wind been from the west it is very likely that this would have occurred, but a south wind helped the firemen and the flames on the burning Jordan did not spread rapidly.

"Among the cars standing on a switch on the banks of the burning stream was ones loaded with dynamite and powder. It with the other cars were quickly drawn to places of safety by a switch engine, but there was consternation when the switch engine, in coupling onto the string of cars, bumped heavily into them and gave the load of dynamite a heavy jolt.

"There was a heavy coating of oil on the creek when the stream caught fire today. It is said to come from the gas plant almost entirely, though a small amount is said to have recently escaped from tanks of the Waters-Pierce Oil Company further upstream. The oil from the gas plant is a product obtained in the process of gas manufacture. It is impure naphthalene from the coal used in manufacturing gas. Night freight handlers at the Frisco freight house are some of the persons who are glad the oil is emptied into the Jordan. The freight handlers say it prevents the Jordan from becoming a breeding place for mosquitoes and that because of the oil on the stream they are never troubled by the pests.

"Heretofore the chief function of the Jordan has been to be an eye sore and to carry away sewage. Now it has proved that it is an enemy to mosquitoes and is also a brilliant adjunct of a fair city and is even capable of rivaling the notorious Chicago River.

"The Chicago River used frequently to catch fire and the stream caused much comment by its inflammable characteristics. The Jordan does not claim to be anything more than a dirty little creek, but it can be just as brilliant as the Chicago River.

"Had the oil ignited under the Frisco freight house where the Jordan passes, freight valued at $100,000 would have been endangered. Those who saw the blaze say the flames leaped many feet in the air for some time."

Leader, September 3, 1908

The image above shows the Frisco Freight House in the 1940's during a flood of Jordan Creek. Other Frisco images, histories, and magazines related to Frisco can be found here.

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