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York So Smoky Fire Wasn’t Noticed

We would probably be surprised at how murky city skies were a hundred or so years ago. Manufacturing was booming, and that meant a lot of smoke and steam.
The York Gazette of December 31, 1867 reports on a major fire that took a while to get noticed because of those conditions.

“BURNING OF THE MILK CONDENSING ESTABLISHMENT–Between 10 and 11 o’clock on Wednesday morning last, the establishment of the Baltimore Milk Condensing Company, a short distance north of the George street bridge, on the Harrisburg turnpike, was discovered to be on fire. The fire originated in one of the upper stories and was accidental.
Owing to the amount of smoke and steam usually seen issuing from this establishment, and the fact that all the manufactories are in that direction from the center of town, the smoke of the fire was not noticed, and the alarm not communicated and spread as soon as they otherwise would have been.
As soon as the alarm was sounded, however, our firemen hastened to the spot, and began throwing water as soon as possible. The Union suction drew her water from the race, while further off, the Vigilant suction, pumping into the gallery engine, obtained hers from a dam hastily thrown up. The Laurel, by borrowing some hose, was able to obtain her supply from the plug on the corner of George and North streets, a quarter of a mile off.
They all did their duty, and through their noble efforts thousands of dollars worth of property were saved. A large quantity of condensed milk, and other articles, were carried from the building, and thus saved. The firemen and the crowd generally regaled themselves with the fresh milk just brought from the country that morning.”
The report goes on to state that the loss, covered by insurance, was $11,578.32.
Gibson’s History of York County, Pennsylvania (1886) reads: “The Baltimore Condensed Milk Company, located a short distance north of the borough, started business in 1863. It was owned by William Numsen & Sons, Baltimore. The establishment has lately been used for canning fruits.”
Where was the plant? The map of the Borough of York in the 1876 Pomeroy, Whitman Atlas of York County shows the “Thomas Chambers Fruit Canning Factory” on the Harrisburg Turnpike (N. George Street) at Willis Run, just south of present-day Parkway Blvd.
Click the links below to read more about York County fires and firefighting.
York steamer helps put out Goldsboro fire.
Preventable Hanover fires.
York County forest fires.
Jail inmates alarmed by fire.
Woman, cow and horses saved.
Cigars smoking in Red Lion.
Fire company builds in street.
Click the links below to read about some large York manufacturers.
Variety Iron Works.
Pullman Automobies.
Weaver Pianos.