In the early morning hours of October 11, 1964, most of the men on duty at Fire Headquarters at Front and Union were asleep when a passerby ran in and reported smoke coming from the sidewalk grates a few buildings down the street. The fire was at Bluff City Cotton Company, at 111 South Front Street, an office building for several Memphis cotton merchants. The building was two stories on the Front Street side and three stories in the rear on Wagner Place, due to a full-length basement and the difference in elevations of the streets. Heavy heat and smoke and difficulty reaching the blaze forced fire fighters to withdraw and attempt to control the fire defensively, with heavy streams of water from aerial ladders, snorkels, deck guns, and the Hale Water Tower. After several hours, the fire was finally brought under control. The three-alarm blaze crippled nine of Memphis’ cotton firms at harvest time, when cotton merchants sold and shipped millions of dollars worth of cotton each week from Memphis warehouses. Three firemen were also injured fighting the blaze. This fire is especially important for Memphis fire fighting, because it took more lines of fire hose — a total of 51 lines to fight this fire than any other fire in Memphis history, including the Russwood fire.

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