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matty1979

Woodway Square Fire

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Is the Woodway square fire topic not worthy of posting about? This was one of the worst fires in the history of Houston. I think there were close to 300 units destroyed.

Does anyone have any related stories?

Is the Woodway square fire topic not worthy of posting about? This was one of the worst fires in the history of Houston. I think there were close to 300 units destroyed.

Does anyone have anything else related?

http://www.firegroundvideo.com/2010/07/houston-fire-department-711-woodway-square-apartment-fire-1979/

Edited by matty1979

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I think what stands out the most in my memory is how on the day of the Woodway Square fire Houston city council turned down a proposed fire department ordinance outlawing wood-shingled roof on apartments. They retracted themselves the following day.  There were a number of big fires because of wood shingles. My parents house in Meyerland burned because of wood shingles. They were attractive but terribly unsafe. 

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I think what stands out the most in my memory is how on the day of the Woodway Square fire Houston city council turned down a proposed fire department ordinance outlawing wood-shingled roof on apartments. They retracted themselves the following day.  There were a number of big fires because of wood shingles. My parents house in Meyerland burned because of wood shingles. They were attractive but terribly unsafe. 

No doubt they were originally fretting about infringing on "property rights". :rolleyes:

The amazing - and good - thing is that nobody died in the fire. According to Mr Wiki this was the second largest fire in the city's history.

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this was the second largest fire in the city's history.

I remember having read an historical account of an enormous fire in Houston's early days; a large portion of the city burned. Wasn't it in the 5th Ward area?

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I remember having read an historical account of an enormous fire in Houston's early days; a large portion of the city burned. Wasn't it in the 5th Ward area?

From the HFD Firestation #19's website:

February 21, 1912. The city's worst conflagration to date. The fire started in a vacant building at 1216 Hardy shortly after midnight and was quickly spread by a gusty northwest wind. By dawn, the fire had burned a swath all the way to Buffalo Bayou four blocks wide and ten blocks long. The loss was estimated at well over $5 million. The Houston Chronicle featured a story about the fire in 1958 written by Mike Thorne. He stated a gale force wind was blowing from the northwest when the fire started in the abandoned building located at Hardy & Opelousas, across the street from the city's largest railroad yard. The two-story "Mad House" had been a saloon for railroad workers. Only vagrants from the railroad yard used it for shelter. The building was quickly consumed by fire and it began to spread. An engineer in the railroad yard saw the fire and sounded his whistle. A fire alarm box at Hardy and Lyons was pulled and bells began to ring in the fire stations across Houston. Hose Company No. 5 was just two blocks south of the fire. The chain drop fell and the fire horses leaped from their stalls into their harnesses. Driver Phil Jay and Engineer John Ward climbed onto the steam engine. With the crack of reigns, the horses bolted from the engine house dragging their bridles and bits, everything but the steamer, Jay and Ward. In their haste the two men had forgotten to lock the harness collars. At the central station Assistant Chief Allie Anderson and his driver headed north in the chief's car. They could see the orange glow against the night sky. When the first firefighters arrived, an entire block was ablaze. Anderson immediately summoned a general alarm. A driver from Central was dispatched to Galveston to pick up Fire Chief "Kid" Ollre, who was on a fishing trip. When hose wagon No. 2 arrived, they laid hose from two blocks south of the fire. Before the line was charged, it caught fire. A large church on Conti caught fire. The water pressure was good, but the wind kept pushing the fire block after block. The conflagration spread south to Buffalo Bayou. When it reached Clinton and Hill (Jensen), the fire appeared to be contained by the bayou's natural barrier. Embers falling on the south side of the water, however, started several spot fires, all of which were quickly contained. Several fire engines and firefighters from Galveston were sent by rail flatcar, but were never unloaded. The fire burned itself out by the time they arrived.

FifthWardFire1912.jpg

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Does anyone out there have photos of teh Woodway Square fire to which they own the rights? I'd like to use them in an educational video. Thanks

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Does anyone out there have photos of teh Woodway Square fire to which they own the rights? I'd like to use them in an educational video. Thanks

It would be worth it to ask the local TV stations for permission to use video of some of their news coverage. They might allow it IF, as you say, it's for educational and non-commercial purposes. At most, they would only ask that you identify where the video came from. Give it a shot. It's worth a try.

Edited by FilioScotia

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It would be worth it to ask the local TV stations for permission to use video of some of their news coverage. They might allow it IF, as you say, it's for educational and non-commercial purposes. At most, they would only ask that you identify where the video came from. Give it a shot. It's worth a try.

I found some nice photos from the Houston Post archive that went to HMRC downtown. Hope to get my hands on digital copies next week.

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Woodway Square is still open in truncated form. The fire was so big that HFD requested mutual aide from a number of nearby departments (something they don't often do). I've seen pictures of pumpers drafting out of swimming pools, presumably because all the nearby hydrants were already taken or too far to lay.

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I lived in Woodway Square some years before the fire.

I saw the smoke from the Katy area and saw the details on the TV news.

It was a big deal and it did change rules regarding construction including shingles.

Indelible in my memory is a phone call I got from a buddy a couple of days after the fire.

Friend : Do you know where your old apartment is?"

Me: No "!?!"

Friend: "In your old parking space!"

 

It was a sobering commentary about the hardships that a whole bunch of

apartment dwellers were going through that week.

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I lived in the Woodway Square apartment building! On the day it burnt down it was the end of the month and it burnt down in the middle of the day when nobody was there. It was very suspicious since do many units were lost in the middle of the day, just before rents were due. I was working downtown in the Pennzoil building and my friend called to tell me it was on fire.  So surreal.  I went to the window and watched. I couldn’t believe it until I got there.  My ground floor apartment was open to the sky but not completely gone.  All our possessions were ruined by water hoses, smoke, soot, and firemen traipsing through. My dog was missing and we never saw her again. So sad!

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On 1/17/2011 at 7:15 PM, FIREhat said:

Woodway Square is still open in truncated form.

None of the original Woodway Square buildings remain today. The fire destroyed a third of the apartments, and even by 1989 a new office building had been built on Woodway on the northeast side. In the early 1990s, the rest of the complex was redeveloped, except for a separate section that had been sold off as a new property (on the San Felipe side, my records say it was called "Woodway on San Felipe Apts."). The last of these were torn down in early 2004.

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