Frozen fire-gutted building
February 21, 2008 9:48 AM   Subscribe

It's never a happy occasion when a 130 year old brick building goes up in flames. But when the fire crews have to spray down the building (and the surrounding city block) in sub-zero temperatures, the end result looks stunning.

From 10:30AM to around 1PM yesterday, firefighters in downtown Minneapolis worked to contain the blaze that consumed Maxwell's American Cafe, a popular local lunch spot, and the adjacent Scandia Furniture store. While these buildings were neither historic nor especially remarkable, their sudden drenching and subsequent rapid deep-freezing made for some very unique and striking photographs.
posted by baphomet (52 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
In Charlottetown, PE, there was a fire downtown a couple of years ago. As a result of the fire and the -25 C temperatures, the adjacent buildings had icicles on them and the street had inch thick ice on it. I felt like going down and skating, it was perfect and flat.
posted by scabrous at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2008


Wow. Wow. These are amazing pictures. Thank you for sharing.
posted by headspace at 9:51 AM on February 21, 2008


Looks like Iceman's work.

RESCUE BUS
posted by DU at 9:53 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


At first I thought this was a post about the fire that took down a historic block of Queen West in Toronto yesterday (RIP National Sound and Duke's).

Apparently it was a bad day for old buildings.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:58 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some photos of the Toronto fire.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 10:04 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Felicity Rilke, that's what I thought too (RIP Cosmo and 1/2 of Suspect too) some amazing photos here
posted by phirleh at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2008


Spectacular.

I remember an article the Boston Globe ran years ago, about the "worst" jobs in the city. Their conclusion: roofers, in the summer, have the worst jobs; in the winter, the title goes to fire fighters. What struck me most about the article were some of the photos - a fireman with icicles dripping from his helmet and frost in his bears, and another of a fireman on the raised ladder of a ladder truck, holding a hose that had a long line of icicles on its bottom side. The building where they were fighting the fire looked to be about half ice and half flame,
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2008


I actually work on the third floor in building super close to Maxwell's. I spent the morning staring out the window as this big, old building burnt on and on and multitudes of fireman battled it for hours. It was well below zero here yesterday, so the cold water hitting the flames sent huge clouds of steam rolling off the top of the building into the sky. It was really pretty phenomenal to witness.
It kept seeming as though they had put the fire out, but then the flames would rise up again from some other part of the building. It began to ice over before the fire was even fully out. There was ice on the sides of the building, while the roof was still engulfed in flames.
It's still completely frozen on all sides. It looks like an ice palace to me.
While I'm sad to see a city with too few old buildings lose one more, at least it went down in a beautiful way!
Even now, people can be seeing milling about on the street outside taking pictures, so it will most likely be worth it to check flickr again in a day or so to see what other images people capture.
posted by honeyx at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Those photos are really amazing -- exquisite beauty from a tragic event.
posted by mathowie at 10:10 AM on February 21, 2008


The article mentions that nobody was injured in the blaze, which supposedly started in a 3rd floor storage area (the upper levels contained some apartment units), however one cat did not escape the building.

That means that somewhere inside the husk of an apartment, one might find the charred and crispy remains of a beloved feline, completely encased in a tomb of ice.

You don't see that every day.
posted by baphomet at 10:17 AM on February 21, 2008


All kinds of awesome, thanks for posting.
R.I.P. the cat who was lost in the fire.
posted by porn in the woods at 10:18 AM on February 21, 2008


Oh yeah. One of the best photos my dad ever took was of a barn on fire.

I too thought this was a Queen Street West story. I watched the news last night and one of the firemen said the worst fires are always on the coldest days. Wonder if that's true.
posted by orange swan at 10:19 AM on February 21, 2008


Oooh! Neat! Thanks for the post.
posted by brundlefly at 10:33 AM on February 21, 2008


Sad for the building, but very cool visual. I hope more photos pop up on Flickr or elsewhere.
posted by geeky at 10:34 AM on February 21, 2008


Here's some shots of a fire in St. Louis years and years ago. It's now a fitness club in the loft district.
posted by notsnot at 10:34 AM on February 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Very cool. Thanks.
posted by rooftop secrets at 10:40 AM on February 21, 2008


I was surprised to see the huge fire on Queen (and thought that this is about it as well), especially because the day was so cold. Wouldn't the fire have to "spend energy" to melt the ice around and thus decrease in size? Why is it so tough? Anyone can explain this?

(or conversely, what orange swan has heard - why would worst fires be on the coldest days?)

Thank you!
posted by olya at 10:46 AM on February 21, 2008


why would worst fires be on the coldest days?

The firefighter I saw interviewed about the Queen West fire said that just trying to move people and gear around, not to mention holding a high-pressure hose steady, just becomes extremely difficult on the ice-rinks that form around the site.

I'm certain there's more to it than that..maybe the cold winds feeding the fire?
posted by Adam_S at 10:53 AM on February 21, 2008


Wow. Neat stuff.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on February 21, 2008


When I was about 10 years old I was awaken one winter night by the sound of sirens. My dad announced excitedly that there was some sort of fire on the corner. We all got dressed and went down to gawk. It was a Formica factory, and it was exciting to watch the firemen in action. The next day, we walked back to look at the site and it looked much like these photos - frozen waterfalls. One thing I'll always remember, besides the icy beauty of the building, was that it's hard as heck to get the smoke smell out of your clothes and hair after ogling a structure fire.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:00 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ooh, I was wondering as I left work yesterday afternoon why Washington was closed over there. The tangle of cars kept me from looking too closely at the situation, aside from seeing lots of emergency vehicles. Mostly I was just trying to figure out an alternate route, without hitting any of the other confused drivers. I can't believe I forgot to check the news this morning! Thanks for the update. I had no idea a burning building would freeze like that.
posted by vytae at 11:02 AM on February 21, 2008


Maxwells was a good bar.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:15 AM on February 21, 2008


Wow, amazing. This happened when I was a kid in Montpelier, VT, and the building stayed ice-encrusted for months. I was fascinated by it.
posted by alexwoods at 11:21 AM on February 21, 2008


Felicity Rilke, that's what I thought too (RIP Cosmo and 1/2 of Suspect too) some amazing photos here

pity it didn't take down the big bop.
posted by gman at 11:23 AM on February 21, 2008


Thanks for the Toronto info and photos (and condolences also to Minneapolis) -- Queen W. is my old neighborhood (Palmerston and Queen) so I was sad to hear about all that yesterday.

Good god, is the Big Bop still open? How about Sanctuary? Oh, to be young and Goth again.
posted by Shepherd at 11:35 AM on February 21, 2008


The worst fires being on the coldest days may have something to do with the very low relative humidity. I know that in winter, most wood shrinks due to low moisture content, and re-swells in the more humid summer. It must be very easy to burn this time of year.
posted by rocket88 at 11:38 AM on February 21, 2008


I think Skanctuary is now a Starbucks...

...the saddest Starbucks ever.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:46 AM on February 21, 2008


See also.
posted by Doohickie at 11:46 AM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, Astro Z, Maxwell's was an excellent bar.
Used to drink one-dollar Labatt's and wave my Homer Hankie on game days.
I will miss it.
posted by Dizzy at 11:47 AM on February 21, 2008


Wow, great pictures. I've never seen this before. Quite beautiful...
posted by ob at 11:50 AM on February 21, 2008


Not to throw cold water on this post, but I just don't find these all that stunning. Yes, a building doused with tons of water in mid winter can look pretty spectacular, I've seen some amazing ones, but this one just looks sad to me.
posted by beagle at 12:33 PM on February 21, 2008


beagle - links!
posted by Artw at 12:40 PM on February 21, 2008


Good god, is the Big Bop still open? How about Sanctuary? Oh, to be young and Goth again.

all that matters is that the comfort zone was untouched by the fire.
posted by gman at 12:55 PM on February 21, 2008


You don't really need the fire, just the hose...
posted by 445supermag at 1:08 PM on February 21, 2008


beagle - links!

OK, links: 1 2 (scroll down) 3
posted by beagle at 1:11 PM on February 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Have to admit, 1 and 2 there are pretty damn cool. (3 is alright, I guess).
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2008


My hometown suffered a devastating fire about a month ago. Similar to the OP, the firefighters were fighting the fire in temps well below freezing, resulting in ice buildup on transformers and fire protection gear (link to slideshow).
posted by parilous at 1:22 PM on February 21, 2008


Correct link to slide show mentioned by parilous.
posted by beagle at 1:40 PM on February 21, 2008


In nordic mythology, the beginning of everything happened when the icy world of Niflheim met the burning world of Muspelheim, in the void known as Ginungagap.

Vaguely related to this topic, I know. I just like saying Ginungagap. Ginungagap.
posted by Catfry at 1:56 PM on February 21, 2008


I never really thought of it before in this context, but when you spray liquid water on something and the water freezes, you are adding a lot of heat to it-- enough heat to raise the amount of water that freezes from 0 deg. C to 80 deg. C.

Would it make more sense on really cold days to have a stream of water hit a jet of compressed air (which would have to be cooled back down to ambient air temp before hitting the water) and spray that on the building? Sort of like a sand blasting operation? The idea does violence to my intuition, somehow.
posted by jamjam at 2:16 PM on February 21, 2008


why would worst fires be on the coldest days?

Yeah, I'm with rocket88 on this one, I'm betting it's because despite there being a foot of snow on the ground, on really cold days, the air is incredibly dry. And once that moisture is out of the air, everything can be considered kindling. Sure, once a fire gets hot enough, it will melt the snow, but by that point stuff is already burning.

I'd hate to be a firefighter in the middle of winter. It has to take a bad situation and just make it a complete clusterfuck.

The photos of the building really are quite pretty though. We see that in WI every once in a while when we get a huge snowstorm bracketed by a warm day, followed by a sub zero day, where there will be a thick layer of ice covering everything.

Very pretty. Really dangerous.
posted by quin at 2:21 PM on February 21, 2008


Hmm. Isn't the role of the water not so much to change the tempoerature as smother the flames?
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on February 21, 2008


In other words, could you send out one of those snow-making machines ski areas use to fight a fire on a day like this?

Hmm. Isn't the role of the water not so much to change the tempoerature as smother the flames?

Smothering the flames is certainly very important.
posted by jamjam at 2:33 PM on February 21, 2008


Man, I only ate there once, but I liked it. My friend (who used to live above the bar back in his musician days) told me about the fire just a few minutes ago. I hadn't watched the news at all, missed that this had happened.

R.I.P. for the kitty.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:34 PM on February 21, 2008


Thank you for all the answers, everyone! The dry air reasoning makes sense and was what I was looking for.. Of course there is the physical difficulty of putting out a fire on a skating ring, but these fires look pretty bad.

So then extrapolating, if there are conditions that are worse for fires, (I.e. Make them larger), wouldn't there be conditions that are better (put it out faster)? Clearly winter and summer is out (cold dry air hurts, and hot air seems like it would keep smoldering flames) - or maybe summer is okay? Based on what you guys said so far its humid days that are "best".

I sincerely hope none of us ever have to deal with this scenario.
posted by olya at 4:27 PM on February 21, 2008


Can I add that firefighters are just heroes.
posted by nax at 5:40 PM on February 21, 2008


I drove by the site today and the building seriously looks awesome. I can't wait to see some more photos because there's a lot of stuff that stood out to me that couldn't be photographed up close at first.
posted by baphomet at 7:44 PM on February 21, 2008


(thanks, Beagle :-))
posted by parilous at 8:16 PM on February 21, 2008


these pics are excellent, but i cant imagine being one of those firemen.
cold, wet and tired.
posted by Capt Jingo at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2008


More wonderful ice pictures - not entirely sure of the cause though.
posted by Artw at 11:53 AM on February 22, 2008


Went past this on the bus on the way home last night - saw it covered in icicles and thought "whoa, that's just that fire in Toronto."

Somehow I'm not surprised that it's here on the blue, nor that a bunch of you have been past it recently as well.

I kept meaning to stop at that furniture store and try out the funky chair in the window. bummer.
posted by EricGjerde at 12:30 PM on February 22, 2008


Wow. These are really something.
posted by phaded at 5:38 PM on February 22, 2008


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