Remembering the Nice Chelsea Fireplace of 1973

Remembering the Nice Chelsea Fireplace of 1973

A half century after the smoke lastly cleared, the 1973 hearth in Chelsea, Massachusetts, remains to be vividly remembered by those that lived by it. The devastating Chelsea blaze started on October 14, 1973, and destroyed 18 blocks – roughly 20% of town.

The conflagration began within the “Rag Store District,” which had obtained this nickname because of the great amount of salvage sellers and machine retailers. This space was simply 200 yards away from the place the Nice Chelsea Fireplace of 1908 started – and never removed from the Chelsea Clock manufacturing facility. Regardless of this, our buildings have been happily spared.

Others weren’t so fortunate. Greater than 300 buildings burned down within the hearth, leaving greater than 1,100 folks with out properties and 600 folks with out jobs. Whereas the efforts of firefighters from the Chelsea Fireplace Division and surrounding cities have been capable of include the fireplace inside 24 hours, it continued to burn and smolder for a number of days.

The Nice Chelsea Fireplace, 1973

It was by no means decided precisely what brought on the fireplace or what the exact financial injury was. Nevertheless, a number of elements mixed to assist the flames unfold quickly, together with the excessive proportion of previous wooden buildings, stockpiled scrap tires attributable to low costs, an absence of water from the outdated metropolis water mains and excessive winds drawn in from the coast by the fireplace’s updraft. The Rag Store District had been slated for city renewal in 1971, however little or no progress had been made earlier than the fireplace.

By some miracle, there have been no reported deaths because of the hearth. And with a mix of federal assist plus help from surviving companies reminiscent of Chelsea Clock, town of Chelsea was capable of rebuild stronger than ever.

On this unique account, our resident historian, longtime Chelsea worker John McCarthy, remembers the Nice Chelsea Fireplace of 1973.

Wanting Again on the Nice Chelsea Fireplace

Sunday, October 14, 1973, was a wonderful fall day – good for working exterior. At 4 p.m., I used to be some 25 ft up within the air on a 32-foot extension ladder, portray the underside trim of my house in Winthrop. Out of the blue I used to be engulfed in close to darkness. I first thought, a thunderstorm?

It didn’t take lengthy to understand that the darkness was really smoke. Newscasters have been reporting a big, out-of-control hearth in Chelsea. I referred to as our manufacturing facility ADT coordinator, who instructed me that they had serviced others within the space however our constructing was not affected – besides that our sprinkler system was alerting them of low water strain.

I referred to as our upkeep mechanic, Charlie “Large Al” Morrison, who lived inside strolling distance of the manufacturing facility in close by Prattville. Al’s spouse, June, instructed me that Al had already left for the manufacturing facility and that town was barring all however emergency visitors from the world. At 6 p.m., I drove to the Chelsea/Everett line, parked on Carter Hill, and walked the brief distance to Everett Avenue the place our manufacturing facility was. The fireplace was nonetheless raging, however fortunately the wind wasn’t blowing the flames towards us. By 9 p.m., the fireplace gave the impression to be contained, if not underneath management. With the absence of our sprinkler system, Al volunteered to face “hearth watch” in a single day; so at 11 p.m., I returned house.

Once I returned to work on Monday, town was underneath martial regulation with Nationwide Guard troops stationed in any respect main intersections. “The Nice Chelsea Fireplace” continued to smolder for a number of days with firefighters continuously responding to scorching spots. When it was lastly over, 18 blocks and tons of of Chelsea companies had been destroyed.


The next are excerpts from a narrative that ran within the February 1974 difficulty of Yankee Journal, titled “The whole lot was Burning” by Fred Hapgood.


Individuals had been predicting a conflagration for 55 years.

Technically, a conflagration is a fireplace burning uncontrolled over numerous metropolis blocks. Emotionally, it’s a horror that lives with folks ceaselessly and ever…

They’d greater than sufficient warning. In February the Nationwide Board of Fireplace Underwriters listed town as “having the best potential for conflagration than any metropolis in america.” In 1968, it was discovered that Chelsea had extra fires per capita than any metropolis within the nation. Nor does Chelsea lack firefighting experience. The Fireplace Division itself is taken into account essentially the most skilled within the state, and it’s greater than seemingly that the Chelsea inhabitants at massive is aware of as a lot about fires because the members of the fireplace departments of some cities.

Every week later I spoke with Frank Moran, a 29-year-old postal employee who has lived in Chelsea all his life. “Lots of people round right here assume the fireplace is the most effective factor that ever hit Chelsea,” he mentioned. Have a look at it this manner. Nobody was killed or harm. And that space was no rose.

“It’s a standing joke,” Frank Moran remarked. “You ask any person, ‘The place’ve you been?’ He’ll say, ‘On the hearth,’ and also you snort. Chelsea has so many fires. They’re an enormous social factor. After dinner, you exit, stroll to wherever the fireplace is that night, and pal round with some associates.” Despite the fact that I suspected that Mr. Moran was humoring me ever so barely, it’s no shock that the president of the Worldwide Affiliation of Fireplace Buffs, Morris Torf, is a Chelsea man.

Later, a Chelsea firefighter singled out three among the many tons of of various causes that contributed to this inferno: First, the worth of scrap tires had dropped and the Chelsea retailers, awaiting increased costs, had been constructing stockpiles of them all around the space. Second, when a roof falls by the flooring of a burning constructing, the escaping air lofts fragments, most of which will probably be on hearth, excessive into the air. Third, the large blaze, pushed by a 40 mph westerly wind, created a robust updraft which sucked in a sea wind from the east. The 2 winds together recorded gusts as much as 100 mph.

The fireplace break chosen was the Williams College, or because it was referred to as that day, Firepoint North. Commanding it was Chief Joseph Scanlon from Lynn who was among the many first of the two,000 firefighters from 90 communities and 4 states that Newton Management despatched to Chelsea.