The Bouckville Mill Fire 1931
Firemen Risk Drifts, Fight $50,000 Blaze
Six Companies Race 5 to 15 Miles With Mercury 14 Below
200 Volunteers Out
Intense Cold Hampers 5-Hour Battle at Old Cider Mill
Exclusive Dispatch to The Herald
Oneida, Jan 9. – Six fire departments made runs of from five to 15 miles apiece along snow-banked roads in below-zero weather at 2 o’clock this morning to fight fire which destroyed the Duffy-Mott Company vinegar and cider plant at Bouckville, 15 miles south of Oneida, causing loss estimated at $50,000.
Hamilton, Madison, Oneida, Oriskany Falls, Morrisville, Waterville and Deansboro firemen answered the calls and with 200 volunteers were able to keep the fire from spreading to other structures in the old village.
Chemical tanks froze up on the run and the emergency forces drew water from under the ice in the disused Chenango canal, which formerly afforded navigation between Deansboro and Binghamton.
It was necessary to use 2,100 feet of hose in a single line to get water to the fire and it froze almost as soon as it left the nozzle.
The Waterville company was the first on the scene, within 15 minutes after the fire call was sent in after William Ball, night watchman at the plant, found the main building in flames. The first firemen took their station beside the canal and pumped through 1,000 feet of hose to the Deansboro booster pump, which sent the water the other 1,100 feet to the fire.
The flames went 200 to 300 feet in the air as the three-story frame structure, surmounted by a water tower set on cribbing on the roof, was turned into a mighty torch. The fire burned for five hours, destroying the main building, the Mott Tavern beside it and part of the same property, a road stand, the boiler plant and the water tower.
Only the fire wall remained standing in the ruins. The fire companies from Madison, Hamilton, Oneida and Oriskany Falls thawed out their chemical tanks in turn in the Bouckville Garage and recharged. They protected other property with their chemical equipment.
Telephone and electric light poles across the road from the mill were burned and communication and power to the east were interrupted. The plant stood beside the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad right of way, and was about 70 years old.
Despite the extreme cold, thermometers registering 14 below zero at Bouckville, hundreds went to the fire.
The Duffy-Mott Company, Inc., operators of the mill, headquarters at New York, carried insurance, Louis Meinhold, Bouckville manager said.
The plant produced 2,000,000 gallons of cider and vinegar annually and represented one of the old industries of the Cherry Valley turnpike. There were 60,000 gallons in stock in barrels, glass jugs and vats.
Second Assistant Chief Frank Cheesman, and Fire Chief Edward McCully and Joseph McFarland had charge of the Oneida run.