fire

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There are all kinds of records, but some are just stranger than others. Switzerland actually holds a strange record…for attacking its neighbor, Liechtenstein. This is particularly odd in that Switzerland is a neutral nation…very opposed to war!! In fact, Switzerland is the longest standing neutral nation in the world and has not taken part in a “war” since 1505. Its official stance of non-involvement had been decided during The Congress of Vienna in 1815, in which major European leaders met to discuss the nature of Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. Nevertheless, they do have an army.

Diplomatic and economic relations between Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been good. In fact, you could say relations were very good, with Switzerland accepting the role of safeguarding the interests of its tiny next-door neighbor. Liechtenstein has an embassy in Bern, Switzerland, and Switzerland is accredited to Liechtenstein from its Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern and maintains an honorary consulate in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The two countries also share an open border, mostly along the Rhine, but also in the Rätikon range of the Alps, between the Fläscherberg and the Naafkopf.

With all that “good will” between the nations, you would never expect conflict, but apparently, Switzerland has attacked Liechtenstein three times in 30 years. Of course, it was by mistake each time! How does that happen? Nevertheless, it did. The first time was probably the only “aggressive” accident of the bunch. On December 5, 1985, during an artillery exercise, the Swiss Army had launched munitions in the middle a winter storm. The wind took the munitions way off course, into the Bannwald Forest of Liechtenstein, and started a forest fire. No one was injured and the Liechtenstein government was very angry. Switzerland had to pay a heavy penalty for the environmental damage caused. The second attack took place on October 13, 1992. The Swiss Army received orders to set up an observation post in Treisenberg. They followed the orders and marched to Treisenberg. What they didn’t realize was that Treisenberg lies within the territory of Liechtenstein. They marched into Treisenberg with rifles and only later realized that they were in Liechtenstein. The last attack was on March 1, 2007. A group of Swiss Army infantry soldiers was in training when the weather took a bad turn. There was heavy rainfall, and the soldiers were not carrying any GPS or compass. Eventually, they ended up in Liechtenstein! Switzerland apologized to the Liechtenstein government for the intrusion, yet again.

Thankfully these “accidental” attacks were not of a deadly nature. They were really more a “comedy of errors” than an attack. Thankfully, the people of Liechtenstein saw the “attacks” for what they were, and tended to care for their “intruders,” rather than fight back. Of course, that would have been difficult too, since Liechtenstein does not have an army of their own, and so depended on the “protection” of their neighbors…when they didn’t accidentally attack them.

As we come to a close in the year 2021, I think most of us would agree that this was one tough year, but then again, not as bad as 2020. So many things are in total disarray, and most people are unhappy with the direction our country is headed. Nevertheless, as Americans, we are ever hopeful for the future. It’s just in our nature. We are looking to the future of elections, times after Covid, and times when thing can get back to normal.

While this has been a tough year, it has also been a year of fire. I suppose that could sound odd, but everyone has had to make their own decisions about things like school, health, jobs, and church. Some of these decisions were very difficult, and it felt like being thrown into the fire. Many have found themselves in trouble with everyone from family to Facebook. Posts have been deleted and friends have chosen to unfriend us…and yet, we stand. We must stand…or we will never be able to stand again. If we fail to use te freedoms and rights that belong to us, they might just be taken away from us. There just comes a time when you must choose to fight for what you believe in. And then there were the forest fires, the December tornadoes, the earthquakes in odd places, and the volcanoes…including a brand new one in Iceland. Things are getting pretty wild around here.

This has been a hard year. We have lost loved ones and friends, and yet we have learned to stand strong. We have comforted those who have lost loved ones. Helped those in quarantine. We have delivered groceries, meds, and meals. In essence, we have become good neighbors in the face of all the riots and hate. We have proven that we, as Americans will continue to be America-Strong. Yes, I think we are all ready to say goodbye to 2021, and very ready to bring in 2022. I suppose that is because no matter how bad this year has been, we know that much has changed in a good way. Many things have been exposed and will continue to be exposed. What has been hidden is coming to light and will continue to do so. I really expect the year 2022 to be an amazing year, full of promise, and I am looking forward to what is to come. Tonight, I encourage you to stay hopeful and prepare for great days ahead.

When we see a fire, we usually give little thought to the firefighter first responders who run into the scene. They usually give little thought to what dangers might lie in wait for them…or sometimes they already know what is inside. They know that dangerous chemicals and combinations of chemicals are very likely in the building, and that these chemicals might be dangerous, either during the fire, or even for years after the fire. Nevertheless, firefighter first responders run into the fire, and into serious danger every day.

Sometimes, the danger is far worse than the average fire, and when the firefighter first responders run into the building, they know that they are very likely running into a scene that will probably bring about their own demise. When the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster began on April 26, 1986, Vladimir Pravik was one of the first firefighters to reach the scene. Upon entering, he was hit with radiation so strong that it changed his eye color from brown to blue. I have no idea how it must have felt to be hit with that much radiation, or if that is something you would immediately feel at all. I can’t say that I know that much about radiation.

Whether Pravik felt anything or not, doesn’t really matter, nor is it something we can ever ask him, because like the majority of the first responders to the radioactive disaster, Pravik died 15 days later from severe radiation poisoning. When we look at the damage radiation can do to people, it is totally devastating. These firefighter first responders ran into the scene of a terrible disaster, and gave no thought how the situation was going to affect them. They very likely knew that it was going to kill them, but there were people inside the plant who were suffering, and even dying. These firefighter first responders set aside their own need to be safe, and ran into the radiation-filled plant anyway. For most of them, their equipment did not include any gear to protect them from radiation, hence the eye color change Pravik experienced. Some of them may not have known the dangers, but I believe that most of them did, and that makes them even more heroic and courageous. Their selfless actions probably didn’t save any lives inside the plant, but maybe it limited the wide-spread effects and possible saved a few lives outside the facility.

What would the modern farm be without the tractor? People in the 19th century knew exactly what it would be, even if they had no idea what a tractor was. John Froelich was born on November 24, 1849, in Iowa. His life would end up changing much in the agricultural industry. As an adult, Froelich operated a grain elevator and mobile threshing service. His job was to bring a crew to local farms every year at harvest time. He hired a crew and dragged a heavy steam-powered thresher through Iowa and the Dakotas, threshing farmers’ crops for a fee. I suppose it was a good way to make a living, but his machine was bulky, hard to transport, and expensive to use. To top it off, it was also dangerous…one spark from the boiler on a windy day, and he could find the whole prairie ablaze.

Froelich knew that this was no way to do business. He decided that he had to try something new. In 1890, instead of that cumbersome, hazardous steam engine, Froelich came up with the idea of a gas powered engine. The size comparison alone made it a far superior choice. So, he and his blacksmith mounted a one-cylinder gasoline engine on his steam engine’s running gear and set off for a nearby field to see if it worked. To their excitement, it did. The tractor Traveled at a speed of three miles per hour. Of course, that was going to take them a long time to go from one location to another. The real test came when they took their new machine on the road for the annual threshing season. The good news is that the machine was a success there too. The crew threshed more than a thousand bushes of grain every day, 72,000 bushels in all, and they used only 26 gallons of gasoline. Of even greater importance, was that they did the whole thing without one fire.

It was time to take the project to the next level. Froelich found eight investors, and they formed the Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Company. They built four prototype tractors and sold two. Unfortunately, both were soon returned. Rather than lose the company, and to make money, the company branched out into stationary engines. That was somewhat more successful and its first engine powered a printing press at the Waterloo Courier newspaper. Froelich was happy with the success, but that was really not where his interests were. He was into farming equipment and wanted to make an engine that worked for that. So he left the company in 1895. Froelich might have jumped the gun a little bit, because Waterloo kept working on its tractor designs. The designs still weren’t wildly successful, and between 1896 and 1914, Waterloo sold just 20 tractors in all. Success finally came when in 1914, the company introduced its first Waterloo Boy Model “R” single-speed tractor, which sold very well…118 in 1914 alone. The next year, its two-speed Model “N” was even more successful. In 1918, the John Deere plow-manufacturing company bought Waterloo for $2,350,000.

My nephew, Tucker Schulenberg is quite a guy!! He loves wheels…all kinds of wheels!! He loves to go out on the four wheeler, his motorcycle, and his rip stick. If fact, he has used his rip stick so much that he wore out his wheels. He just may be the first kid to ever do that. It certainly isn’t something I’ve ever heard of before.

Tucker is a soft hearted guy, who likes to do things for other people. He likes to sleep in, but he gives that up in the winter months do he can get up and build a fire for his dad, my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg, (who recently adopted him…the best day in all of their lives). Tucker is very dedicated to keeping his dad warm and usually is a very good helper doing oil and sweeping the garage. Tucker loves spending time with his dad, and even work doesn’t seem like work when they are together. Although Tucker has this “hard-core armor” on outside he is very sensitive on the inside and always worries about his family especially his brother, Riley Birky and his sister, Cassie Iverson! He loves them very much because he has such a huge heart. Tucker also loves his dogs and his cat.

Tucker is a comical guy. In school he is very popular because he is the class clown. He is always funny and joking around. Nevertheless, he is smart as a whip, and does well in school. He has a couple of really good friends…Joey, who he has known since preschool, and with whom he is very close. Their friendship has been a strong bond for both of them. His cousin Easton Moore is another of his close friends. They love to play Xbox games together, over the phone, since they live in different towns. And…like many boys his age, Tucker has a girlfriend. I’m not surprised, because he is a cute guy and so all the girls swoon over him.

As with most teenagers, Tucker sometimes gets “a little mouthy” and his mom, Rachel Schulenberg had to threaten to take away his privileges. Like most men, he never picks up his clothes or his towels. He definitely not a “neat freak,” but she is trying to teach him the way to be a good husband in the future. I’m sure his future wife will appreciate that effort very much. It’s funny that Tucker doesn’t pick up his clothes, because he is very “into” the way he dresses. He enjoys looking nice and up-to-date with the current fashion trends. He was real excited to get a new leather jacket and cowboy boots for his birthday. Tucker has his head on straight, and in very informed about politics. He is a Trumper all the way, and that makes all of his family very proud. Today is Tucker’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I’m not a superstitious person…don’t believe in that sort of thing, but I can a strange coincidence as clearly as the next guy. Ramon Artagaveytia was born July 14, 1840 in Montevideo, Uruguay, to Ramon and Maria Artagaveytia. December 24, 1871 found Artagaveytia sailing on the America, a ship out of Uruguay, when the boiler overheated and caught fire. The resulting catastrophic damage doomed the America to the ocean floor. Witnesses said that the America had been racing another ship into the port at Montevideo Harbor at a high rate of speed, and it is thought that the excessive boiler pressure caused it to catch fire.

At the time of her sinking, America was carrying 114 first class, 29 second class, and 30 “popular” class passengers. I’m not sure what “popular” class, was, but I assume steerage. Of the 173 passengers, only 65 survived the sinking. Artagaveytia probably would not have been one of them, but he made a last ditch effort and jumped overboard and swam for his life. He recalled later that so many of the passengers were badly burned, and the ensuing nightmares Artagaveytia suffered, kept him too terrified to travel by ship for the next 40 years. That was particularly hard for Artagaveytia, who came from a family of sailors.

In 1905, Artagaveytia took over a farm in Garamini, Argentina. In 1912, Artagaveytia was still living in Argentina, but decided visit his nephew, who was the head of the Uruguayan Consulate in Berlin. Before returning home to Argentina, he decided to visit the United States, and it was that decision that sealed his fate. Artagaveytia told his cousin that he finally felt at ease about traveling on a ship. He thought he might even be able to sleep while on board, and not stand always at the rail wearing his life jacket. The thing that finally made him feel better about travel by ships was the wireless telegraph. He finally thought that someone would know where these ships were, and that they could arrive quickly to help if needed. With that knowledge and the peace of mind it brought with it, Artagaveytia boarded the Titanic. Everyone knows the fate of the Titanic, and how so many mistakes were made…from sailing too fast, to ignoring the warnings, to turning off that all important radio. Ramon Artagaveytia had survived the sinking of the steamer America, but he would not make such an escape from Titanic. About a week after the disaster, his body was pulled from the North Atlantic. Once they were sure of his identity, he was returned to the Uruguayan Consul at Halifax. His body was forwarded to New York and then to Montevideo, Uruguay. He was buried in Cemeterio Central in Montevideo on June 18, 1912.

Women have always had an eye for fashion, but I can’t say that having an “eye” for fashion, is the same as having common sense for fashion. In the Victorian era, Bottle-green dresses were all the rage. I understand the love of the color green, and how a beautiful emerald green might be a coveted color. The problem occurs with the process of obtaining that color. The process used to achieve this lovely shade of green involved the fabric being dyed using large amounts of arsenic…yes, rat poison!! Some women suffered nausea, impaired vision, and skin reactions to the dye. They endured the suffering because the dresses were only worn on special occasions, thereby limiting exposure to the arsenic in the fabric. By contrast, it was the garment makers were the real sufferers. Many of them became very ill and even died to bring this trend to the fashionable set.

Another crazy style was known as Panniers, which comes from the French word “panier,” meaning “basket.” These were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. The look involved a boxed petticoat to expanded the width of skirts and dresses. The contraption stood out on either side of the waistline…straight out!! Panniers varied in size and were made of whalebone, wood, metal, and sometimes reeds. Extremely large panniers were worn mostly on special occasions and reflected the wearer’s social status. Even the servants wore them, though in a much smaller version. Two women couldn’t walk through an entrance at the same time or sit on a couch together, because their panniers took up an entire extra seat or more. The device was also uncomfortable, limiting movement and activity.

In the 1910s, French designer Paul Poiret, who was well known as “The King of Fashion” in America, debuted the hobble skirt. The long, close-fitting skirts forced women who wore them to adopt mincing, tiny steps. True, Poiret’s design liberated women from heavy petticoats and constricting corsets. But as he said, “Yes, I freed the bust. But I shackled the legs.” This makes me wonder why women allow their fashion ideas to come from men…who don’t have to wear the clothes they design. Some of these “fashions” were enough to make a woman faint, because her corset was too tight, and she could not get sufficient air.

During the Roaring ’20s, women no longer wanted the hourglass shape. Now the style was the boyish flapper figure. Underwear had to change to assist in this new look, and women who were “busty,” had a big problem and the underwear needed a big overhaul. The goal of every undergarment was to flatten the breasts and torso, so that flapper dresses could hang straight down without any curvaceous interruptions. Corset-makers R. and W.H. Symington invented a garment, the Symington Side Lacer, that would flatten the breasts. The wearer would slip the garment over her head and pull the straps and side laces tight to smooth out curves. Other manufacturers designed similar devices. The Miracle Reducing Rubber Brassiere was “scientifically designed without bones or lacings,” while the Bramley Corsele combined the brassiere and corset into one piece that easily layered under dresses. I wonder how anyone could breathe in these prisons known as underwear.

The Crinoline, also known as the hoop skirt, was a bell-shaped device that pushed the volume of skirts to an extreme degree. Worn in the 1800s by Victorian women, Crinolines were originally petticoats made of linen stiffened with horsehair. Wonderful…now we are wearing horsehair under our skirts. This created a big problem. It was just too hot with so many petticoats. Later, the invention of the steel cage crinoline offered the same voluminous look without the extra heat and bulk of thick petticoats. These undergarments were clumsy and hard to control, but they were also dangerous. In 1858, a young woman in Boston died when her large skirt caught embers from a fireplace in her parlor and went up in flames. It all happened to fast to save her. Nineteen such deaths occurred in a two-month period. That is a heavy price to pay in the name of fashion.

And then, there was the “Grecian bend,” the Victorian bustle. It arrived on the scene in the 1870s. The earliest version of this trend simply featured excess fabric gathered and draped at the back of a dress. Eventually, though, skirts were puffed up with large cushions filled with straw. Ladies who wore them ended up with exaggerated figures with outthrust hindquarters. The bustle was frequently a target of ridicule. This style reminds me of the “padded seat” of modern day leggings, though the modern day version isn’t quite so exaggerated. In 1868, Laura Redden Searing, using the pen name Howard Glyndon, wrote about the agony young women put themselves through for fashion in the New York Times, “If you knew the Spartan courage which is required to go through an ordeal of this sort for two or three hours at a time, you would not wonder that she has not an idea left in her head after her daily display is over,” she said. Hahahaha!! That sounds reasonable to me.

Most people have attended a circus at one time or another, although they are becoming a little more something from the past. Nevertheless, they used to be huge attractions, and when the circus came to town, almost the whole town turned out to watch the show. That was something that worked against the people of Hartford, Connecticut on July 6, 1944. At that time, Hartford was a city of approximately 13,000 people. The Independence Day festivities had just passed and now the circus was in town to continue the week’s excitement for the townspeople. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum Baily Circus was famous for its incredible show, held under a huge circus tent. At 8,000 people in attendance, about 2/3 of the town was there. It was going to be a great show, and the children of the town were beyond excited.

With the tent filled to capacity, a fire is the worst nightmare, but that is what they had. No one knows exactly what happened, and the 8,000 people inside really had no time in which to react. As panic spread as fact as the fire broke out under the big top of circus, killing 167 people and injuring 682. Two thirds of those who perished were children. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it spread at incredible speed, racing up the canvas of the circus tent. Suddenly, patches of burning canvas began falling on them from above, and a stampede for the exits began. People became trapped under fallen canvas, but most were able to rip through it and escape, but after the tent’s ropes burned and its poles gave way, the whole burning big top came crashing down, trapping those who remained inside. Within 10 minutes it was over, and some 100 children and 60 of their adult escorts were dead or dying.

The fire investigation revealed that the tent had undergone a treatment with flammable paraffin thinned with three parts of gasoline to make it waterproof. These days, no on would consider using gasoline for such a purpose, but unfortunately at that time it was used. Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus eventually agreed to pay $5 million in compensation, and several of the organizers were convicted on manslaughter charges. In 1950, the cause was finally uncovered in the case when Robert D Segee of Circleville, Ohio, confessed to starting the Hartford circus fire. Segee claimed that he had been an arsonist since the age of six and that “an apparition of an Indian on a flaming horse often visited him and urged him to set fires.” In November 1950, Segee was convicted in Ohio of unrelated arson charges and sentenced to 44 years of prison time. The Hartford investigators raised doubts over his confession. Segee had a history of mental illness, and it could not be proven he was anywhere within the state of Connecticut when the fire occurred. Connecticut officials were also not allowed to question Segee, even though his alleged crime had occurred in their state. Segee, who died in 1997, denied setting the fire as late as 1994 during an interview. Because of this, many investigators, historians, and victims believe the true arsonist…if it was indeed arson…was never found.

It is in times of greatest need, that people seem to best show that they can pull together to accomplish the greatest tasks. During World War I, the city of Butte, Montana was already a unionized industrial city with a population of 91,000 people. The city was home to one of the largest mining operations in the world. Butte was home to a copper mine system consisting of the Granite Mountain and Speculator Mines, and because of the heightened need for copper at that time, the abundance of employment opportunities drew workers from every corner of the world. The influx of people from other corners meant that more than 30 languages were spoken among the city streets. “No Smoking” signs posted in the mines were printed in 16 different languages, so that there was no mistaking the dangers.

In April of 1917, the United States’ involvement in World War I was in its fourth month, and Butte mines increased their production of copper by operating around the clock, working the 14,500 miners like mules in order to meet the ever increasing demand. Unfortunately, this also brought steadily deteriorating safety conditions. Many of the miners were sleeping in shifts, so the beds in the boarding houses often never went cold. Despite these demanding work conditions, Butte miners worked with a pride and determination seldom found above ground, let alone a half-mile below the surface of the earth. They felt the weight of their duty to the war effort, and they gladly performed their jobs to the best of their abilities. Each day, the men were lowered into the mine, and the previous crew was brought out.

On the evening of June 8, 1917, 410 men were lowered into the Granite Mountain shaft to begin another backbreaking night shift. The exiting day shift had been tasked with the process of lowering a three-ton electric cable down the shaft to complete work on a sprinkler system designed to protect the mine against fire. All seemed to be going well, but at 8:00 pm the cable slipped from its clamps. As it fell into a tangled coil below the 2400 foot level of the mine, the lead covering was torn away. The torn covering exposed a large portion of oiled paraffin paper, which was used to insulate the cable. Unfortunately, the oiled paraffin paper was also highly flammable. At 11:30 pm four men went down to examine the cable. One of the men accidentally touched his handheld carbide lamp to the oiled paraffin insulation, which immediately ignited. The flame spread quickly to the shaft timbers. The Granite Mountain and Speculator shafts immediately filled with thick, toxic smoke.

There was a mad scramble to find a way of escape. Just over half of the men working in the Granite Mountain shaft were able to find an escape to the surface. One group of 29 men built a bulkhead to isolate themselves from the smoke and gas. They stayed there for 38 hours before making their way to safety. At the 2254 foot level, another group of 8 men were found behind a makeshift bulkhead over 50 hours from the start of the fire. Two of these men died shortly before their rescue, but the other six were recovered safely. Though the intensity of the fire cannot be disputed, only two men were actually burned to death in a rescue attempt at the onset of the blaze. The rest were simply trapped and overcome by the noxious, suffocating fumes. By the close of the rescue operation on June 16, 1917, eight days after the fire had begun, the death toll had reached its final tally of 168 men.

The Granite Mountain and Speculator Mine Fire was the worst disaster in metal mining history. And we could leave it at that, but then we would be overlooking a remarkable accomplishment…the rescue mission. Over the course of just 7 days, rescue crews succeeded in searching over 30 miles of drifts and crosscuts, and at least 15 miles of stopes, raises, and manways. Townspeople turned out in droves to help in whatever way the could. All this was done in mine shafts saturated with carbon monoxide and dense, tar-laden smoke. In all, 155 bodies were recovered and removed, all without the loss of a single rescue worker. Despite the tremendous damage the fire caused to the Granite Mountain Mine, it did not stop the work being done there. Copper ore continued to be mined until the mine’s close in 1923. The Butte mines produced the copper that helped electrify America and win World War I. Through this horrible tragedy, Butte received a very special moniker. The city was being called “The Richest Hill on Earth, referencing the soul and determination of the community, rather than the value of the ore beneath its feet.”

I think most people have heard of Big Ben, the famous clock tower in London, but what you may not know is that originally, there was no clock and no tower. The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, most often called Big Ben, are among London’s most iconic landmarks and favorite London attractions. Big Ben is actually the name that was given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons, not to the clock or the tower. At night the four clock faces are illuminated, and the effect is spectacular.

The British Parliament is located in the Palace of Westminster. In October of 1834, a fire destroyed much of the palace and it had to be rebuilt. At that time it was decided that there would be an spectacular addition of a clock at the top of a tower. The clock is magnificent. Each dial measures almost 23 feet in diameter. The hands are 14 feet long and weigh about 220 pounds, including counterweights. The numbers on the clock’s face are approximately 23 inches long. There are 312 pieces of glass in each clock dial. When parliament is in session, a special light above the clock faces is illuminated. Big Ben’s timekeeping is strictly regulated by a stack of coins placed on the huge pendulum. Big Ben has rarely stopped. Even after a bomb destroyed the Commons chamber during World War II, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to strike the hours. The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC on December 31, 1923. It is a tradition that continues to this day. The Latin words under the clock face read Domine Salvam Fac Reginam Nostram Victoriam Primam, which means “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.” In June 2012 the House of Commons announced that the clock tower was to be renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

A massive bell was required and the first attempt made by John Warner and Sons at Stockton-On-Tees cracked irreparably. Big Ben first rang across Westminster on May 31, 1859. A short time later, in September 1859, Big Ben cracked. The metal was melted down and the bell recast in Whitechapel in 1858. A lighter hammer was fitted and the bell rotated to present an undamaged section to the hammer. This is the bell as we hear it today, and the real owner of the name Big Ben. Elizabeth Tower stands at more than 105 yards tall, with 334 steps to climb up to the belfry and 399 steps to the Ayrton Light at the very top of the tower.

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