Provincetown, Massachusetts

Whaler's Wharf Fire

10 February 1998

Photos and text by Britton W Crosby

(Posted March 14, 2002)
(Updated February 6, 2008)

(Ptown FD) (Ptown Fire Mar 2002)

 

It was a quiet, mild, moonlit night in Provincetown. The weather for February was exceptionally nice. There was no snow on the ground, no ice on the bay, no strong bitter cold winds typical of this time of the year. Provincetown was in its winter mode. Most of the shops, hotels, and attractions were closed for the season. The congested streets of the summer were empty, with the exception of a few parked cars here and there.

The center of this old town was built during the early 1800's, well ahead of most other Cape towns. Once a great whaling port, the town is focused around its harbor. Thousands of fishing boats have called Ptown their home port. The buildings along the shore are almost all wooden balloon frame, built one on top of another, with tight alley ways and narrow streets.

On the night of February 10, 1998 a fire broke out in the old Provincetown Theatre built in 1919. This large structure, known in recent years as the "Whalers Wharf" was located in the very heart of town at 241 Commercial Street. Next to it were other large structures, including the infamous Crown & Anchor Inn and hotel. The fire quickly enveloped three major buildings and posed a very serious threat of creating conflagration conditions in this old town.

The resulting response of fire and rescue personnel was monumental. Officially the fire went to 5 alarms, but in reality with the number of special calls and movement of apparatus, it was much more than that. In all, 39 fire departments from two counties participated in the fire, over 130 pieces of apparatus moved, and over 450 firefighters were involved. It was the largest "mutual aid" fire in Cape Cod history. The fire caused over $7 million in damage. But due to the efforts of Provincetown and other Cape fire fighters, the fire was contained and only a few minor injuries occurred.

The following photos were taken by me. I traveled from my home approx 45 miles to the fire, arriving about 1 hour after it began.

First Alarm..............  1845 hours
Second Alarm........... 1854 hours
Third Alarm.............  1857 hours
Fourth Alarm............ 1904 hours
Fifth Alarm..............  1930 hours

The full log is below...........

One of the first photos taken from a hill on Bradford Street overlooking the fire.
The spire of the Universalist Church (located directly across from the Wharf) is on
the left. This view is looking east.

A closer shot from the same area shows the Provincetown ladder pipe and the Truro deckgun
streams in action on the Wharf, main body of fire.


 

Provincetown Ladder 192 operating from side 4 onto the fire. The Provincetown Pilgrim
Monument is lit up on the left.

 

 

Provincetown Engine 190 (left) with Truro E485, and the Provincetown Ladder 192.
Looking east down Commercial Street.
 



Provincetown Ladder 192 operating the ladder pipe on the fire.

Provincetown Engine 190 (Engine 1) was the first arriving pumper. Initially positioned directly in
front of the fire building, it had to move further up the street to operate effectively. It operated
a deckgun and several handlines for hours. Next to it, the first arriving Truro Engine 485.

 


Engine 190 and Truro Engine 485 operating deckguns


Provincetown Engine 190 (Engine 1) operating on Commercial Street.
Note the extensive overhead wires.


 


Provincetown and Wellfleet (E94) engines operating in heavy smoke conditions
on the east side of the fire on Commercial Street

 


The Crown & Anchor is well involved


Crews operating master streams and handlines on the three buildings.
The Whaler's Wharf is the building on the right, the 2 story Handcrafter shop (center)
and the 3 story Crown & Anchor (left). A fourth building was to the right of the
Whaler's Wharf.


The Orleans Ladder 176 operated a stream from the east side of the fire onto the Crown & Anchor.

The next morning, complete devastation. This photo taken from the back end of the roof of
the Marine Specialties store. Looking into the heart of the Wharf, the handcrafters,
and the Crown & Anchor. The Universalist spire and Pilgrim monument are in the background.


 

Side 1 of the fire, taken from the yard of the Universalist Church. The building on the far right
(just below the aerial Ladder) is the Marine Specialties building, which received moderate smoke
and water damage. Just right of center is the Whaler's Wharf. To the left, about where the
mater stream is flowing, is the Handcrafter's Building, which was destroyed. And the large
glow, to the left behind the tree is the Crown & Anchor Inn.

 

Engine 177 and Ladder 176 from Orleans operated streams on side 2/3 of the general area.
The bulk of the fire in this photo was the Crown & Anchor Inn.

 


Apparatus at the time


Provincetown Engine 1  (190)


Provincetown Ladder 2  (192)


Provincetown Engine 3  (193)


Provincetown Engine 4 (194)


Provincetown Engine 5 (195)


MUTUAL AID RESPONSE SUMMARY

1846 hrs.... FIRST ALARM  
  Provincetown...........C191A to scene Deputy - Commander
  Provincetown...........E190 to scene Pumper
  Provincetown...........L192 to scene Ladder
  Provincetown...........E193 to scene Pumper
  Provincetown...........E194 to scene Pumper
  Provincetown...........E195 to scene Pumper
  Provincetown...........T198 to scene ARFF unit
  Provincetown...........R196 to scene Ambulance
  Provincetown...........R197 to scene Ambulance
  Lower Cape Amb....R598 to scene Ambulance
  Lower Cape Amb....R599 to scene Ambulance
     
1848 hrs.... AUTOMATIC RESPONSE  
  Truro.......................C471 to scene Chief
  Truro.......................E485 to scene Pumper
     
1854 Hrs... SECOND ALARM  
  Truro......................C471 to scene Chief
  Truro......................E485 to scene Pumper
  Truro......................E483 to scene Pumper
  Truro......................R487 to scene Ambulance
  Truro......................S480 to scene Squad
  Wellfleet.................E94 to scene Pumper
  Wellfleet.................L97 to scene Ladder
  Wellfleet.................R99 to scene Ambulance
     
  2ND ALARM COVERAGE  
  Truro.....................E482 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
  Wellfleet................E93 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
  Eastham.................E155 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
  Orleans..................E177 to cover Cover Truro HQ
  Orleans..................L176 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
  Brewster................E233 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
     
1857 hrs CIEMSS...............EMS 1 to scene Responding from Truro
     
1857 Hrs... THIRD ALARM  
  Truro.....................E482 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Wellfleet...............C91 to scene Chief
  Wellfleet...............E93 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Eastham................C161 to scene Chief
  Eastham................E155 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Orleans.................E177 to scene Pumper (from TR cover)
  Orleans.................L176 to scene Ladder (from WE cover)
  Chatham...............R182 to scene Ambulance
  Harwich................R63 to scene Ambulance
  Brewster...............L237 to scene Ladder
  Brewster...............HR241 to scene Heavy Rescue
     
  3RD ALARM COVERAGE  
  Brewster...............E233 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from WE
  Eastham................E156 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
  Harwich................E64 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
  Orleans.................E175 to cover Cover Truro HQ
  Chatham...............E186 to cover Cover Truro HQ
  Yarmouth..............R53 to cover Cover Truro HQ
  Harwich................E69 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
  Harwich................L66 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
  Brewster...............E234 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
  Brewster...............R242 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
  Chatham...............E188 to cover Cover Eastham HQ
  Dennis..................E115 to cover Cover Eastham HQ
  Dennis..................L108 to cover Cover Orleans HQ
  Yarmouth..............E47 to cover Cover Orleans HQ
  Dennis..................E112 to cover Cover Chatham HQ
  Yarmouth..............E45 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2
  Yarmouth..............E48 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2
  Yarmouth..............L41 to cover Cover Harwich HQ
  Hyannis................E823 to cover Cover Harwich HQ
  Dennis..................E106 to cover Cover Brewster HQ
  Yarmouth..............E44 to cover Cover Dennis HQ
  Barnstable............E205 to cover Cover Yarmouth Sta.2
  W Barnstable.......E294 to cover Cover Yarmouth Sta.2
     
1904 Hrs.... FOURTH ALARM  
  Eastham...............E156 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Orleans................C171 to scene Chief
  Orleans................E175 to scene Pumper (from TR cover)
  Harwich...............E64 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Harwich...............L66 to scene Ladder (from WE cover)
  Harwich...............Air Trailer to scene Air supply
  Harwich...............C70 to scene Pickup with air trailer
  Brewster..............C231 to scene Chief
  Brewster..............E233 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Brewster..............R242 to scene Ambulance (from WE cover)
  Dennis.................L108 to scene Ladder (from OR cover)
`    
1904 Hrs.... 4TH ALARM COVERAGE  
  Chatham..............E186 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from TR
  Harwich...............E69 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from WE
  Brewster..............E234 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from WE
  Chatham..............E188 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from EA
  Dennis.................E115 to cover Cover Truro HQ from EA
  Yarmouth.............E47 to cover Cover Truro HQ from OR
  Hyannis...............R827 to cover Cover Truro HQ
  Dennis.................E112 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ from CH
  Yarmouth.............E45 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ from HA
  Yarmouth.............L41 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ from HA
  COMM...............R325 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
  Dennis.................E106 to cover Cover Eastham HQ from BR
  Yarmouth.............E48 to cover Cover Eastham HQ from HA
  Yarmouth.............E44 to cover Cover Orleans HQ from DE
  Barnstable...........L206 to cover Cover Orleans HQ
  Hyannis..............E823 to cover Cover Chatham HQ from HA
  W Barnstable......L297 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2
  W Barnstable......E296 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2
  Barnstable...........E205 to cover Cover Brewster HQ from YA
  Hyannis..............E822 to cover Cover Dennis HQ
  W Barnstable......E294 to cover Cover Dennis Sta.2 from YA
  COMM...............E304 to cover Cover Yarmouth HQ
  Sandwich............E444 to cover Cover Yarmouth Sta.2
  Cotuit..................E265 to cover Cover Hyannis HQ
  COMM..............E302 to cover Cover W Barnstable HQ
     
1925 Hrs... Mashpee.............E355 to cover Cover Hyannis HQ
1928 Hrs Sandwich............E450 to cover Cover W Barnstable HQ
1930 Hrs Red Cross..........Canteen 229 to scene Canteen
     
1930 Hrs.... FIFTH ALARM  
  Chatham.............C181 to scene Chief
  Chatham.............E186 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Chatham.............E188 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Harwich..............C61 to scene Chief
  Harwich..............E69 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Brewster.............E234 to scene Pumper (from PT cover)
  Yarmouth............L41 to scene Ladder (from WE cover)
  Yarmouth............E47 to scene Pumper (from TR cover)
  Hyannis..............R827 to scene Ambulance (from TR cover)
  Barnstable...........L206 to scene Ladder (from OR cover)
     
1933 Hrs Barnstable...........E205 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2 from BR
     
1934 Hrs... 5TH ALARM COVERAGE  
  Yarmouth.............E45 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from WE
  Dennis.................E112 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from WE
  Dennis.................E106 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ from EA
  Brewster..............R242 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
  Yarmouth.............E48 to cover Cover Truro HQ from EA
  COMM...............R325 to cover Cover Truro HQ from WE
  Yarmouth.............E44 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ from OR
  W Barnstable.......E296 to cover Cover Eastham HQ from HA
  Hyannis................E822 to cover Cover Orleans HQ from DE
  Dennis..................E107 to cover Cover Chatham HQ
  Hyannis................E823 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2 from CH
  W Barnstable.......E294 to Cover Cover Brewster HQ from DE
     
1944 Hrs... 5TH ALARM COVERAGE Additional Coverage
  W Barnstable.......L297 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ from HA
  COMM...............E315 to cover Cover Harwich HQ
  Hyannis...............LT829 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2
  COMM...............L314 to cover Cover Dennis HQ
  Sandwich.............E444 to cover Cover Dennis Sta.2 from YA
  Cotuit...................E265 to cover Cover Yarmouth HQ from HY
  Barnstable............E202 to cover Cover Yarmouth Sta.2
  COMM...............E302 to cover Cover Barnstable from WB
  Falmouth.............E25 to cover Cover COMM HQ
  Mashpee..............E355 to cover Cover COMM HQ
  Falmouth.............L26 to cover Cover Mashpee HQ
  Sandwich.............E455 to cover Cover Sandwich HQ
  Otis.....................E7 to cover Cover Sandwich Sta.3
     
1948 Hrs Bourne.................E123 to cover Cover Sandwich HQ
     
1948 Hrs COMM................E304 to cover Cover Dennis HQ from YA
  Mashpee...............E355 to cover Cover Hyannis from COMM
  Mashpee...............E351 to cover Cover COMM Sta.2
1952 Hrs Yarmouth..............R53 to scene Spec called with Class A foam
2000 Hrs Otis......................E 7 to cover Cover Sandwich Sta.2
2004 Hrs Medflight 1...........On Scene Provincetown
2004 Hrs C181...................Staging Officer Sending manpower to scene
2015 Hrs Hyannis................L829 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2
2018 Hrs Chatham..............E186 to scene Pumper (from Staging)

2041 Hrs...
MOVEUPS & COVER  Additional Moveups
Yarmouth.............E45 to Staging Staging (from cover PT1)
Yarmouth.............E48 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
Yarmouth.............E44 to cover Cover Truro HQ
W.Barnstable.......ET296 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
Hyannis................E822 to cover Cover Eastham HQ
Hyannis................E823 to cover Cover Orleans HQ
2103 Hrs... MOVEUPS & COVER  Additional Moveups
Yarmouth.............E44 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
W.Barnstable.......ET296 to cover Cover Truro HQ
Hyannis................E822 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
Hyannis................E823 to cover Cover Eastham HQ
Dennis..................E107 to cover Cover Orleans HQ
2106 Hrs Wellfleet...............E93 to Staging Staging (from cover PT)
2120 Hrs... MOVEUPS & COVER  Additional Moveups
Yarmouth............E48 to Staging Staging (from cover PT1)
Dennis................E112 to Staging Staging (from cover PT1)
2123 Hrs Falmouth............E24 to cover Stage at W.Barnstable HQ
Otis....................E7 to cover Stage at W.Barnstable HQ
Bourne...............E121 to cover Stage at W.Barnstable HQ
Bourne...............E122 to cover Stage at W.Barnstable HQ
2135 Hrs... MOVEUPS & COVER  Additional Moveups
Hyannis..............E822 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
Hyannis..............E823 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
W.Barnstable.....ET296 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
Dennis................E107 to cover Cover Truro HQ
W.Barnstable.....E294 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
Barnstable..........E205 to cover Cover Eastham HQ
COMM.............E315 to cover Cover Orleans HQ
Cotuit................E265 to cover Cover Harwich HQ
COMM.............E304 to cover Cover Dennis HQ
Barnstable..........E202 to cover Cover Harwich Sta.2
Sandwich...........E444 to cover Cover Brewster HQ
Mashpee............E355 to cover Cover Dennis HQ
COMM.............E302 to cover Cover Dennis Sta.2
Falmouth............E25 to cover Cover Yarmouth HQ
Sandwich............E450 to cover Cover Yarmouth Sta.2
Mashpee............E351 to cover Cover Hyannis HQ
Otis....................E7 to cover Cover Barnstable HQ
Bourne...............E121 to cover Cover W.Barnstable HQ
Cotuit.................E263 to cover Cover COMM HQ
Falmouth............E24 to cover Cover COMM Sta.2
Bourne...............E122 to cover Cover Cotuit HQ
2141 Hrs Bourne..............Canteen 139  Respond to scene
2143 Hrs... PLYMOUTH TF-2A Moveup Assignments
Carver...............E3 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Duxbury.............E! to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Kingston............E1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Plymouth............E6 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Plympton............E2 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Wareham............E12 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Onset..................L1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Plymouth.............L2 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Plymouth.............C1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Duxbury..............C1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Kingston..............C40 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
2115 Hrs Brewster.............R242 to cover Cover Eastham HQ
2244 Hrs Plym County TF-2A in WB
2307 Hrs... MOVEUPS & COVER  Additional Assignents
Yarmouth.............E44 to Staging Staging (from cover PT)
Hyannis................E822 to Staging Staging (from cover PT)
Hyannis/...............E823 to Staging Staging (from cover PT)
W.Barnstable.......ET296 to Staging Staging (from cover PT)
Dennis.................E107 to Staging Staging (from cover TR)
2307 Sandwich............E444 to cover Cover Truro HQ
COMM..............E304 to cover Cover Wellfleet HQ
Barnstable...........E202 to cover Cover Eastham HQ
Cotuit..................E265 to cover Cover Orleans HQ
Falmouth.............E25 to cover Cover Harwich HQ
COMM..............E302 to cover Cover Brewster HQ
Mashpee.............E351 to cover Cover Dennis HQ
Sandwich............E450 to cover Cover Dennis Sta.2
Cotuit.................E263 to cover Cover Yarmouth HQ
Otis....................E7 to cover Cover Yarmouth Sta.2
Falmouth............E24 to cover Cover Hyannis HQ
Bourne...............E121 to cover Cover Barnstable HQ
2307 Hrs... PLYMOUTH TF-2A Moveup Assignments
1/2 TF-2A (Batt.1) Covering W.Barnstable HQ
1/2 TF-2A (Batt 2) Cover COMM HQ
2333 Hrs... PLYMOUTH TF-2B Moveup Assignments
W.Bridgewater........E1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Mattapoisett..............E4 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Rochester................E1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Wareham................E6 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Marion....................E2 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Lakeville.................E3 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Middleboro............L! to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Wareham................L3 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
W.Bridgewater.......C34 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Wareham................C1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Lakeville.................C80 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
2342 Hrs W.Barnstable..........E294 to Staging Staging (from cover PT)
2349 Hrs... MOVEUPS & COVER Additional Assignments
1/2 of Plym TF-2A Regional Cover Truro HQ
Sandwich...............E444 to cover Cover Provincetown HQ
COMM.................E304 to cover Cover Truro HQ
2350 Hrs... MOVEUPS & COVER Additional Assignments
W.Bridgewater........E1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
W.Bridgewater........E1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Rochester................E1 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Middleboro............L! to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
W.Bridgewater.......C34 to cover Regional Cover WB HQ
Wareham................E6 to cover Regional Cover COMM HQ
Marion....................E2 to cover Regional Cover COMM HQ
Lakeville.................E3 to cover Regional Cover COMM HQ
Wareham................L3 to cover Regional Cover COMM HQ
Wareham................C1 to cover Regional Cover COMM HQ
Lakeville.................C80 to cover Regional Cover COMM HQ
0005 Hrs... MOVEUPS & COVER Additional Assignments
Full Plym County TF-2A to Staging Staging in Provoncetown
0010 Hrs... PLYMOUTH TF-2C Additional Assignments
Whitman.................E2 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Hanson...................E3 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
E.Bridgewater.........E1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Pembroke...............E1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Brockton.................E5 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Brockton.................TL2 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Bridgewater.............L1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Pembroke................L1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Bridgewater.............C1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Bridgewater.............C2 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Hanson....................C1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Pembroke................C1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Whitman..................C1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Brockton.................C1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
E.Bridgewater.........C1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
Middleboro.............C1 to cover Regional Cover Bourne Sta.3
0156 Hrs... DEMOBILIZING Notes
Plymouth TF-2C Released from Sqgamore
0535 Hrs Plymouth TF-2B Released from W.Barnstable
0535 Hrs Plymouth TF-2A Released from Scene