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Major Fires and Incidents

1910 - American-Hawaiian Company Freighter Fire

The American-Hawaiian Company Freighter fire would prove to be San Diego's most stubborn fire. The Freighter S.S. Alaskan was tied up at the Santa Fe wharf and was on fire on June 17th. Longshoremen took the tarp off the Number 4 hatch and raised the cover only to be greeted by a blast of smoke and hot gas. Both the No. 4 and 5 holds were involved when the first fire units arrived. That's when the ship's skipper told them 500 tons of calcium carbide were on board. Water would form lethal acetylene gas. All firefighting was limited to chemical tanks and hand extinguishers. After three days, San Diego was running low on bicarbonate of soda and sulfuric acid that was used to slow the fire. The steamship company sent down a carload from Los Angeles. Fire Chief Louis Almgren ordered a shipment of liquid carbonic acid be introduced through holes in the ship plate which finally extinguished the fire. It took three weeks to put out the freighter fire; the first fire in history to be extinguished using carbon dioxide gas.