Home Life History HISTORY: THE 1938 ALDEN BRIDGE FIRE

HISTORY: THE 1938 ALDEN BRIDGE FIRE

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Big news was reported in the November 3, 1938 issue of The Bossier Banner.  The planing mill at Alden Bridge had burned in a fire.

“One of the biggest fires in the history of the parish, which for two or three hours threatened to destroy the entire saw mill at Alden Bridge, swept through the planning mill and destroyed about $30,000 worth of property early yesterday afternoon.”

“The fire was discovered about 10 o’clock, when smoke was noticed in the blow pipes at the planer.  A few seconds later shavings in a large cyclone blower exploded and ignited the entire planing mill.  Workmen had to flee for their lives before they could get the fire-fighting efforts under way.”

“Firemen from Plain Dealing, Shreveport and Bossier City were called in to aid in fighting the blaze, which barely was checked in time to save a shed containing $35,000 worth of good lumber, the saw mill proper and some 5,000,000 feet of lumber on the yard.”

“The Bossier City fire engine was connected to a three-inch water line and hose was quickly strung and this pressured water stream was successful in eliminating further spread of the fire.  The fire was extinguished shortly after six o’clock, after four grueling hours of hard fighting.”

“Although the blaze scorched paint on the electric generating house, this structure was saved.  However, Alden Bridge was in darkness last night, because wires were burned into and steam was not available to run the generator.  A steam line will be run from the mill boilers today (Thursday) and electric lines will be repaired.  Service should be resumed sometime this afternoon, mill officials said yesterday.”

“Vagie Rivers, manager of the mill, said after the fire yesterday that the debris will be cleaned away immediately and that as soon as new plans can be made the work of rebuilding the planning mill will get under way.  Quick action by an employee, who opened valves on the giant boiler, saved this piece of equipment, although the heat probably damaged the main engine beyond further usefulness.  All other machines were totally ruined.  Joel Foley, planer mill foreman, was able to save records from the shipping office, although flames were already consuming one side of the office at the time he entered it.”

“Also destroyed by the fire were three loaded box cars, two of them containing very costly lumber.”

“Those who witnessed the start of the blaze report that it spread with startling rapidity.  When the planer mill fire whistle was sounded, men who poured out of the saw mill proper said the entire planer structure seemed to be ablaze.  Fire fighting got under way immediately.  Roy Seabaugh, in charge of fighting on the south of the planer, led his crew in saving the large storage shed and directed pumping operation most effectively.  Mr. Rivers, who was in Shreveport, arrived within a few minutes to direct the fight and all employees of the mill did their utmost from the start of the blaze until it was put out.”

From the early sawmill of 1843 to some time in 1942 various sawmill companies conducted business at Alden Bridge.  The rest of the story is fascinating.

You can learn about it at the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or amiddlet@state.lib.la.us.