A Burning Sensation

Over the years, Fairbanks had a lot of trouble with the threat of fire to homes and businesses. As the following newspaper articles from a century ago can attest, the threat encompassed a lot more than just buildings.

Fairbanks Daily News- October 29, 1908


Early this morning a fire broke out in a water-wagon. It was August Bjerremark’s water-wagon and it burned just like any other wagon. It was a new wagon and it had water in it because it was a water-wagon.

The fire department was called out to pour water on the water-wagon, because the driver had quit the seat and the steam was giving out and they needed more steam for steaming purposes. Funny thing about this fire was the fact that the fire broke out in the bottom of the wagon and burned the whole works, although there was plenty of water in the bottom of the tank.

August had just finished building the wagon yesterday and had left a little fire going in the stove so that he might have a hot morning’s morning. He left it too hot and when he woke up this morning he was in an awful fix because he couldn’t have his morning’s morning, neither could he get on the water-wagon.

The thing stood near the house and August was afraid the fire might get contagious, so he turned in the alarm and had the water dealers’ hurry-up association come out to his pace and scatter a little moisture on the lawn.

It is only given to a man once in a lifetime to watch a water-wagon burn, so they came crowding around offering Mr. and Mrs. Bjerremark sympathy when they were not engaged in poking fun a the uncomfortable wagon and making witty sallies at the expense of the time-honored institution. The wagon itself was ashamed of catching fire as any well-regulated water-wagon should be, and is reported to have been suffused in the warmest confusion.

About two years later things got worse:

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – November 8, 1910


Buzz Wagons, Wood Saws, and Water Wagons Set a Bad Example.

The burning of Dave Courtemanche’s buzz wagon (early word for car) this morning has caused some to speculate on the nature of the next unusual fire that may occur in this city for there are still a number of classes of vehicles that have escaped.

Besides the gasoline buggy that suffered this forenoon, a gasoline wood saw burned up not so many months ago, while two years ago a water wagon took fire and was almost as persistent about refusing to be extinguished as the automobile.

Among the other carts that may next be expected to take fire, will be the ice wagon, the vegetable wagon, the milk wagon and the scavenger’s cart.

Note: This burning history nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska, who wish to remind everyone to make sure you have a working fire extinguisher handy in your vehicle so you won’t have a heated good ol’ days experience! 

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