Tales from the Morgue

The Arizona Daily Star was certainly no stranger to fire. As one might expect, a place filled with newspapers might be in danger from such a beast.

In 1935, the Star had its third fire in a little more than four years. It wouldn't be the last.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Wednesday, Dec, 4, 1935:


Short in Wiring Sets Fibre Board Ceiling Afire In News Room

Fire, the third in four years and a half, visited the plant of the Arizona Daily Star late yesterday afternoon, but was discovered so soon after it started that property damage was virtually nothing. The telegraph service and work in the mechanical department were stopped for a little less than an hour due to the necessity for cutting off electric current.

That the fire was not more serious was an element of good luck. Starting when an apparent "short" blew out a light in the ceiling, it was observed immediately and the electric current cut off at once. But even then the supposedly "fire proof" fibre board ceiling was ablaze and continued to burn until water was poured on it by the fire department.

The Star's first fire was in 1931 when an overheated metal pot set fire to some of this same fibre board. The second was the $100,000 fire December 18, 1933, which started in the basement and spread upward through the elevator shaft.

Charging that yesterday's fire which, had it started at an hour when no one was in the editorial room probably have been as great as the one two years ago, was due to improper construction and inspection, W. R. Mathews, publisher, said.

"I heard the city building inspector give definite orders to the landlord and the contractor that the fibre board ceiling must come off. This ceiling was never taken off. I heard the building inspector give definite orders that the elevator shaft must be bricked in. In the reconstruction the elevator shaft was bricked only as far as the first floor. It is still a fire menace and stands in direct contravention to city building ordinances.

"The building inspector was not backed up by the city administration."

We will find the story of the 1933 fire and post it soon, followed by others.

Johanna Eubank is an online content producer for the Arizona Daily Star and tucson.com. Contact her at jeubank@tucson.com

About Tales from the Morgue: The "morgue," is what those in the newspaper business call the archives. Before digital archives, the morgue was a room full of clippings and other files of old newspapers.