At 6 o'clock in the morning of June 14, 1896, a night watchman noticed a large fire in Warehouse A of the White Mills Distilling Company. The third-alarm fire brought nearly every fire apparatus to the scene. Warehouse B was only 16' away from the burning building. Engine 17 was the first fire company to arrive and began throwing water on the red hot Warehouse B. This action saved the warehouse. As the barrels of whiskey exploded and broke open, a river of water and burning whiskey began to flow. At 10 p.m. Firefighters John Fitzgerald and Phil Bierod, pipemen of Engine 8, and Firefighter Val Schwab of Hook & Ladder 2 were carrying a hose line between two buildings. One of them slipped and fell causing the others to fall. Firefighters Fitzgerald and Bierod caught themselves and were badly burned on their arms. Firefighter Schwab fell full length into the burning whiskey. Those who witnessed the incident thought he was going to burn up on the spot. He was taken to H&L 2 where a physician treated his injuries but he died on July 7, 1896, after lingering with his burn for three weeks.
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