Cody Theatre Fire of 1918 - Deming, New Mexico

Disastrous Cody Theatre Fire of 1918

Fire, which started in the Deming garage on west Pine street, yesterday afternoon at a little before 2 o'clock wiped out the greater part of the block bounded by Pine Street, Gold Avenue, Cedar Street and Copper Avenue, and caused a loss that is conservatively estimated at over $100,000. The fire is said to have originated when a workman in the garage threw a lighted cigarette on the floor.

The oil soaked planking caught alight and within a few minutes the fire had gained such headway that it was impossible to confine it to the garage. The fire department was on the scene in response to a call before the whistle at the ice plant had sounded and one line of hose was stretched in immediately, with the rest being hooked up as fast as they could be dragged off the hose carts. Within a few minutes the garage, which was owned by Roy Baker, and the offices and storerooms of Sam Watkins were enveloped in flames and all chances of saving them were lost.

The light westerly breeze carried the fire across the narrow alley to the Cody Theatre building and in a space of time that was measured in minutes they were eating at the front of the house on Gold Avenue. At that moment the wind veered around to the southwest and carried the flames to the premises formerly occupied by A. S. Michelson & Co. and within a short time the entire building was a glowing mass of fire. Only the strenuous efforts kept the fire from spreading to the offices and warehouse of the Lester Motor Company, north of the Michelson place. But the wind shifted again to the west and the Lester building was saved just when the flames were beginning to gnaw at the edges of the roof.

In the meantime the fire had been eating back toward Copper Avenue, taking the brick building, owned by the Carr estate and occupied by Mrs. L. O. DuLany, who conducted a boarding house there and wiping out everything that Mrs. DuLany owned. The Public Library, facing on Pine Street at Copper Avenue, was only injured slightly and the books that were in it were saved.

Walter L. Russell's home, on Copper Avenue was seriously damaged by fire. The brick sidewalks of the Cody Theatre building saved the small shops and offices on the south side of the building, and the loss there was slight, as most of the occupants managed to hurry their property to a place of safety. The Cody Confectionery, on of the concerns in the theatre building, had a stock of merchandise valued at $4,000 stored in the rear of the stage, and this was entirely destroyed, there being no insurance carried on it.

When the fire broke out in the garage Mr. Baker and his foreman, Walter La Dusire, tried to extinguish the flames, buy they were unable to cope with the fast spreading conflagration and were both severely burned about the hands, face and bodies. E. A. Archer, another employee of the garage, managed to save two cars that were stored there and returned for a third, but the last one stalled with him and he abandoned it after being burned on the arms.

Prompt assistance was rendered by the Camp Cody fire department, which arrived on the scene and immediately went into action with the Deming firemen. The latter, and in fact everyone who witnessed the fire, are unanimous in declaring that, but for the help of the soldiers it would have been impossible to hold the fire in the limits to which it was confined. And no praise can be too great for the work done by the men from the camp. Col. N. P. Hyatt, in command of the military police, was also present with a strong detachment of his men and aided the Deming police force in keeping the crowd back and in preventing any pillaging of the effects that were piled so promiscuously all around the block in every direction.

The heaviest loser from the fire is said to be Sam Watkins, who estimates his loss at $25,000, which was entirely unprotected by insurance, as well as property valued at over $10,000 on which he carried protection. Included in his losses were about twelve cars, eight of them new Dodges and Buicks, for which he holds the agency here. Roy Baker lost $6,000 on which he had no insurance, as well as the cars, which were burned in the garage, the number of which he places around thirty.

The Cody Theatre, owned by the Cody Amusement Company, was partially covered by insurance. When it was built it was valued at $28,000. Sol Carragien, the lessee of the theatre, figures that his loss will run around $18,000. All the chairs, valued at $3,000, a transformer, a fan, a gold fiber screen, and a new $7,000 piano which had been installed the day before the fire, were wiped out, and all the protection that he had was $2,000. A. H. Maiser, he owner of the Cody Barber Shop, on Gold avenue, managed to get his chairs and most of his fixtures out, but he places his loss at $200. The Little shops in the theatre building were saved, and before the firemen had quit playing on the smoldering ruins the owner of the sign painting shop had a big sign tacked up over the door telling the people that he was open for business.

Frank Munier of the 134th infantry was overcome by smoke and was removed in an ambulance. Several other soldiers and firemen were forced to give up the fight because of the smoke and heat, but there is no record of any fatalities or of anyone being dangerously gassed or burned. H. G. Bush owned the building occupied by the Deming garage. Sol Carragien says that he will plan at one to rebuild the Cody theatre and says he expects to be ready to run again in a few weeks.

One reason for the enormous losses is the fact that the character of almost all of the building in the block that was attacked by the flames is such that the fire insurance companies regarded them as extra hazardous risks. The premiums charged were so high that many of the occupants of the premises preferred to take a chance on a fire rather than pay the rates fixed by the companies.


Lumber Company Thanks Firemen

The Foxworth Galbraith Lumber Company wishes to express, through the Headlight, the sincere thanks of its officers to the members of the Deming and Camp Cody fire departments for the excellent work they did in saving the company's yards from the fire that took so much of the block in which the yards are located.

Text is the copyright of Deming Headlight - July 12, 1918

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