Grand Forks Airport Fire in 1930

Four Planes, Hangar at Grand Forks Burn. Grand Forks, N. D. – (AP) – Four planes were destroyed and loss of $10,000 caused by fire which swept hangar, machine shop and office of Grand Forks Air Transport company at municipal airport. Fire started when a gas lamp ignited fumes of gasoline being used to clean a motor truck. Three motors cars also were burned. Oscar Engebretson, mechanic, was burned slightly in removing a plane. (The Winona Republican-Herald, Wednesday Evening, December 3, 1930, Volume 30, Number 244, Page 11)

Page 1. Airport Fire Destroys 3 Planes. Chief Mechanic Slightly Injured Removing Monocoupe. Owners Will Rebuild. Three Cars and Buildings Burn; Hangar Loss Slight. Flames which swept through the hangar, machine shop and office of the Grand Forks Air Transport Co., at the municipal airport Tuesday night caused a loss of over $12,000, according to the estimate of J. M. Bacon, chief pilot of the company who said no insurance was carried on the property. Three planes valued at over $4,000 were destroyed, and a Stinson Junior monoplane, valued at $6,500 was damaged to the extent of $3,000, according to the estimates of Mr. Bacon. A monocoupe which was near the door of the hangar was removed from the burning building with little damage. Taken to Hospital. Oscar Engebretson, chief mechanic of the aviation firm, was burned about the hands and head in removing the plane from the burning structure. He was taken to a hospital where it was reported that his injuries were not serious. The hangar where the planes were stored was of steel construction and was damaged slightly by the flames. The office building, which was valued at $1,000 was destroyed, and the machine shop and equipment suffered a loss of about $3,000. In addition three motor cars stored at the port were burned up. They were a truck owned by the Hotel Dacotah, $500; a light truck owned by the aviation company, $250; and Engebretson’s sedan, $100. The transport company owned the Stinson Junior and a Monoprep plane which was destroyed. The other planes were a Kariykeen owned by Ed Stinson and W. K. Swanson, and one owned by John Hippee.

Lose Clothing. Engebretson, Charles H. Huber, a mechanic, and Ed Sorlie of Concrete, N. D., and Thelmer Lindquist of Hoople, students, who live at the airport lost their clothing and personal belongings in the fire. Oil and supplies for planes were also destroyed. Don Whitman and Mr. Bacon, owners of the transport company, both stated after the fire that the buildings probably would be rebuilt and the company planes replaced, but declines to make definite announcements until after they had held a conference and had more time to survey the damage. The four men who live at the field were cleaning a truck motor in the machine shop at 8:40 P. M. when the fire started, according to Huber. They were using gasoline and the first knowledge he had of the fire was a hissing sound that seemed to come from an acetylene lamp on a work bench near the truck. After that the entire in-

Page 8. terior of the shop seemed to break out in flames. He expressed the opinion that the gasoline fumes ignited from the flame of the light. Gasoline Explodes. Engebretson and Huber seized fire extinguishers and began playing them on the flames, the student said, but were unable to check them. The fire burned through a window leading into the hangar and one of the planes began to blaze. The four men then devoted their efforts to taking planes from the hangar. The flames spread so rapidly through the fabric of the burning plane wings that by the time the men had wheeled the Monocoupe from the hangar, Huber said, all the other planes were burning. Exploding gasoline tanks in the planes spread the flames to the office at the east end of the hangar. Two barrels of lubricating oil also added to the heat of the flames. An alarm was turned into the Grand Forks fire department which made a fast run to the airport, but arrived too late to do anything toward saving the property. They were also without any hydrants to draw water from and the flames had too much headway to be extinguished with chemicals. (Grand Forks Herald, Wednesday, December 3, 1930, Volume L, Number 28)

Burned Structures Will Be Replaced at Airport. Grand Forks Air Transport Officials Announce Buildings and Planes Destroyed in Fire Will Be Restored in Near Future. Damage done to planes and buildings by the $12,000 fire at the Grand Forks airport Tuesday night will be repaired as rapidly as possible and air transport facilities from Grand Forks as well as equipment for servicing visiting planes will be restored in the near future, J. M. Bacon, official of the Grand Forks Air Transport, said Wednesday night. Mr. Bacon and D. E. Whitman, joint owners of the aviation company, surveyed the debris left by the flames Wednesday morning and announced that the damage to the company ships was not as extensive as they had thought at first. They believed that both ships could be repaired.

Will Build Office. Steps will be taken toward the erection of a new combination office and lunch room, Mr. Bacon said, and the machine shop will be rebuilt as soon as possible. Planes which were damaged in the fire will be repaired as rapidly as material can be obtained. Wings of the Stinson Junior plane which were destroyed will be replaced and the frame of the fuselage will be rebuilt, Bacon said. The engine of this ship and that of the Monoprep, a small training ship which was burned, were unharmed by the blaze and the latter plane will also be rebuilt, according to plans made by the officials. Bacon said a new small enclosed plane might be purchased for training air students.

Other Owners Undecided. Owners of two other ships burned in the fire had not decided whether or not their planes would be rebuilt. One of these planes was a Karrykeen owned by Ed Stinson and W. K. Swanson and the other was owned by John Hippe. Bacon said the new office and lunchroom would probably be erected on the site of the one burned and that the machine shop would be attached to the east end of the hangar as before. The wall between the hangar and the machine shop will be fireproofed, he said. Shop equipment which was destroyed by the fire will be replaced. The hangar which is of steel construction was not damaged except that the frames in the back windows were burned. (Grand Forks Herald, Thursday, December 4, 1930, Volume L, Number 29, Page 10)

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