The Norwich Line dock steamer fire, New London
An article in the February 8, 1909 afternoon issue of The Day of New London gives an account of a potentially disastrous fire. “Fire, which early today practically destroyed the wharf of the New England Navigation Co., came perilously near wiping out the central portion of this city.... Had the wind blown from the eastward as it did a greater part of the night, there is not the slightest doubt but that a large part of New London business structures would have either been in ashes or burning today.”
The fire started in a single bale of cotton, stored on the wharf. After a failed attempt by a freight clerk to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher, the fire department was called in. By this time the fire had spread. The steamer Maine of the Norwich Line had been tied up at the wharf and caught fire on the starboard side. The crew cast off from the dock but were unable to put out the fire on their own. The Tasco arrived quickly and, with the T.A. Scott company’s tug Harriet, drew alongside the Maine and poured on streams of water from their pumps, saving the liner from being burned severely. After saving the Maine, the crew of the Tasco pulled up close to the wharf to use its pumps to help extinguish the fire on the wharf.
The Maine was later docked at the Central Vermont wharf and the damage from the fire was not expected to prevent the steamer from making her regular trip from Stonington later in the day. The wharf, however, burned quickly. It had been built during the winter of 1897 and 1898 by the T.A. Scott Company at a cost of $70,000.
As for the Tasco, they soon had a call to go to Point Judith to rescue the British schooner Fleetly, with a cargo of wood pulp, which had gone aground during the night. Here is the entry from the log for February 8, 1909: “Left dock for fire service on steamer “Maine”. Met her steaming very slowly out of burning dock, the heat of which had set several fires on the vessel’s starboard side. “Tasco” went alongside of steamer and put on board with a 2 ½-inch stream of water from “Tasco’s” pump. They soon had the fire out. We stood by her until there was no more danger, then went to the fire on the dock. We put 3 streams on the fire there, working for 2 hours. The officer in charge of “Maine” had requested assistance putting out fire as it was hard for them to get at the fire on the outside, with streams from inside. At 5 a.m. we left the fire for Point Judith on a mission to pull a schooner off the beach.”