This Warehouse From 1912 Is Better Than Most Modern Ones


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In 1914, Joseph and Henry Bimm of Dayton, Ohio opened the Bimm Fireproof Warehouse. Aside from such luxurious amenities as electric lighting, a temperature-controlled piano room and a burglar-proof vault, the Bimm brothers’ warehouse was famously billed as “absolutely fireproof”.

Today, warehouses haven’t exactly lived up to that one’s reputation.

This past April, a three-alarm fire broke out at a storage facility in Brooklyn. While the cause has not been determined, it is reasonable to believe that at least some of the stuff being stored inside the warehouse was flammable. Yet Fire Engineering tells us that “fire officials performed an exterior attack because of the structural (in)stability of the building.” In other words, they saw reason to believe the building might not survive the fire intact. Smart move, as the Bronx Times tells us the fire chief later confirmed that “the side of the warehouse collapsed from the fire.”

Damon Winter/The New York Times

In another Brooklyn warehouse incident, this one in 2015, an initial fire set off the sprinklers, dousing the flames. The bad news was that firefighters had to take the sprinkler system off line since sprinkler heads have to be replaced after discharging water. This meant they were out of commission when a second fire began to spread. The material stored in the warehouse consisted largely of sensitive documents: “medical records, court transcripts, lawyers’ letters, sonograms, bank checks and more” from the state court system, the city’s Administration for Children’s Services and the Health and Hospitals Corporation and several local hospitals.

These documents, containing identifying information on countless thousands of people, ended up being strewn all over the neighborhood and the waterfront as that warehouse began to crumble.

Finally, in a most ironic twist, a Northern California man lost a mountain of valuables hours after moving them from his home to a nearby warehouse. In August 2016, the Clayton Fire was spreading fast across dry, grassy Lake County, a hundred miles north of San Francisco. Lower Lake resident Marc Giberson saw his home was in danger and made the quick decision to evacuate, taking his girlfriend and her dogs away in his pickup, which he piled high with valuable musical memorabilia, including his late musician father’s record collection and his grandfather’s saxophone. With a friend and a bulldozer, he was able to save his home, but the fire swept through town and destroyed dozens of buildings – including, yes, that warehouse.

As the San Francisco Gate reports, “the fire destroyed a huge collection of historic memorabilia that (Giberson) was hoping to one day donate to the Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum, for which he serves as a board member. He also lost a mini modified race car and four vintage cars, including a 1923 Studebaker, which was used as a parade car in the 150-year anniversary of Lake County…

Even worse, though, was the saxophone, music collection and awards once owned by his late grandfather, Freddy Christian, a former big-band leader who once played for John Philip Sousa.”

Fires happen, unfortunately. Things burn, naturally. But far better steps need to be taken to minimize the damage.

Anyone out there know how to get in touch with Joseph and Henry Bimm?


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