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Sternwheeler Yukoner Burns at Dawson City, 1900

Yukon River Sternwheeler Yukoner

Klondike Gold Rush

Dawson Weekly News, Thursday, May 4, 1900

Dawson Weekly News, Thursday, May 4, 1900

Sternwheeler Yukoner Burns at Dawson City, 1900

    The steamer Yukoner was badly damaged by a fire which for a long time yesterday afternoon threatened her destruction. The steamer lies against the shore, just opposite the store and warehouse of her owners, the Trading and Exploring Company, First avenue, between Third and Fourth street. She was being refitted for the opening season's business, newly painted and made ready for the up river run. There were a dozen workmen busily employed upon and about her and had been for about two weeks past, and their work was nearing completion.

    Al Smith, the fireman, was engaged near the forward stairway, on the starboard side, at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon when he was astonished by a burst of flames from a locker under the stairway. He gave the alarm and with others made some attempt to put water on it, but the smoke, which rolled out in a dense volume, drove them away.

    The fire department was notified and responded rapidly enough, but what seemed an interminable interval elapsed before water was secured. Some bungling was also apparent in the placing of the engine or the laying of the hose, as it was found that the hose fell short of reaching the fire. A telegraph pole was cut away to allow of a more direct line and the saving of distance. By the time the water sprang from the nozzle a volume of flame was pouring from the side opening of the main deck and the ruin of the upper works, if not the complete destruction of the boat, seemed certain. But even yet the attack upon the fire was not to be effective. Two men were in ae canoe, trying to direct the stream through the half-opened sliding door and their footing was so unsteady that the stream struck the other side of the boat as often as it penetrated to the fire.

    The fire gathered force and strength and immense volumes of smoke issued forward as the flame broke through from below and took possession of the upper deck and cabin. A stream was carried around upon the ice and directed from the further side of the boat, but seemed to make little impression.

    Finally Al Clarke, with the chemical, climbed to the upper deck and made his way into the cabin through a side window. With this effective little weapon he gave the first sign of hope to owners of the boat, watching her rapid destruction from the shore. He almost completely suppressed the fire in the cabin in a few minutes. F. T. Dugal, an experienced fireman, not a member of the fire department, seeing the ineffectual efforts of the men standing at a distance and trying to play upon a flame that was seated beyond their reach, offered his services and was allowed to take a line of hose with him inside the cabin, effecting an entrance through the rear doorway. From this vantage the fire was rapidly drowned out and the lower deck and expensive machinery of the boat was saved.

    The Yukoner was one of the handsomest and by many considered the speediest boat on the river. But she has always suffered a hoodoo.

    "She has done everything but that," remarked a sufferer from her caprices, watching the flames as they enveloped her yesterday afternoon.

    She was designed by Alex. Watson, of Victoria, and was built during the winter of 1897-98 at St. Michael for Captain or Commodore Irving. Captain Irving brought her up here in the spring of 1898, making the distance in 12 days, running a record time. Captain Irving was the lion of Dawson during his short stay, being serenaded by a brass band and visited by many friends so that he held almost a continuous levee on board. He started on his return trip in the presence of a great crowd on shore and to the music of the band. In high spirits he pulled away from the shore and under full steam made a turn in the river almost within the length of the boat, she careening at the same time almost to the point of taking water. The crowd yelled and the spry little steamer went down the river as though the devil and the sheriff were both after her.

    Arrived at St. Michael, Capt. Irving sold her to Pat Galvin, who had suffered a failure in his own boat, the Mary Ellen Galvin. Galvin is reported to have given $40,000 for her and inasmuch as she was valued at much more Irving's company was anything but pleased and a row followed that resulted in his resigning his office. On the other hand, Galvin's company was not pleased with the purchase or the subsequent conduct of the boat and its affairs and the row that followed on his side resulted in his being superseded in his company.

    On the way up the river, under her new management, every one connected with her report a most unfortunate and trying experience. She was caught in the ice below Nulato in the fall of '98 and such trouble brewed during the dark months between her commander and his crew that the commander was compelled to leave. He came up over the ice and subsequently when the boat arrived, he had the whole crew arrested under the charge of piracy, of which charge, it will be remembered, they were acquitted and exonerated upon trial.

    The passengers and others interested in that trip had an equally unfortunate and unhappy experience. As a result, also, of that trip it is said that customs officers and others awaited with interest her return down river. But she did not return down. She was put on the up river run and remained here all last season.

    Manager Wood, of the Trading and Exploring Company, says the loss by the fire will be fully $12,000 as the whole of the upper works will practically have to be replaced. He says there was no insurance. The boat was valued at about $50,000. Her model is said to be a delight to boat experts and for that model Captain Healy is reported to have offered $500. She 170 feet long, 37 feet breadth of beam, drawing 22 inches light. She was under command of Captain Turnbull.

    A. E. Company men distinguished themselves by really heroic work with buckets on the hurricane deck during the fire, refusing to leave even when their positions were threatened and dangerous. J. L. Davidson had charge of the brigade.

    E. R. Murray, assistant manager of the Trading and Exploring Company, worked energetically on the upper deck until he wae forced by the fire to leap into the icy water.

    Al Clark, who did such good work with the chemical, was formerly on the fire department of Kansas City and later captain of the Tacoma department.

    F. J. Dugal, who volunteered to take the hose into the cabin, is not a member of the local department, but was formerlly on the San Francisco department, one of the best fire fighting organizations in the world.

Sternwheeler Yukoner Burns at Dawson City, 1900