The Second Great Chelsea Fire: October 14, 1973
A stand was set
up at Everett Avenue, a sixty-foot wide street. In spite of the
stand, radiated heat and huge flying brands whipped by the winds,
spread to the Emerald Auto Parts and the Engine Five station at
Everett Avenue and Fourth Street. The fire station received damage
but was saved. The three story wood homes along Fourth Street were
exploding into flames. A Medford fire engine was trapped on Vale
Street and destroyed. Also on Vale Street, twenty three homes and the
city yards with a mass of vehicles and equipment were destroyed.
Meanwhile the flames continued up Arlington Street consuming the row
of three and four story brick homes opposite the Williams School. A
concentrated effort was being made to protect the school. A water
curtain was set up with water being relayed from eight, ten and
twelve blocks away. Firefighters were placed on the roof of the
school dousing flying brands. On the street, firefighters with their
backs to the school, (withstanding excessively high temperatures and
in constant risk from collapsing buildings and flying bricks) made a
heroic stand. The walls of the school were steaming but the
superhuman efforts of the firefighters paid off, the school was
saved. The fire's advance was checked at this point.
Shortly before 11:00 P.M. flaming brands blown on to the City Hall had ignited the roof and fire was working into the attic of the building. Deputy Ed Roche, already exhausted from directing and fighting the main fire was dispatched to direct fighting the fire at the City Hall. About one dozen out of town fire companies were forwarded to the location. The fire was extinguished before it could extend and cause extensive damage. At this point Deputy Roche collapsed from exhaustion and smoke inhalation. The Deputy was carried down over the aerial ladder to a waiting ambulance and rushed to the hospital.
The fire had destroyed eighteen city blocks, forty-five acres, an area one mile long and one half-mile wide. There were no reported fatalities, but the injuries were numerous.
The point of
origin of the 1908 fire and the 1973 fire were less than 200 feet
apart. Replacing the once former "rag shop" district are:
office condos, banks, medical buildings, a shopping center and a
seven story hotel as well as other community-responsible businesses
of all types.