FIRE on the morning of November 4 completely gutted the top floor of the Whiteaway Laidlaw building at the corner of Nanking and Szechuan roads and badly damaged the floor beneath while many of the sales-rooms of the concern were soaked with water. Damage done is estimated roughly at Tls 500,000.
Facing one of the most difficult tasks that has been presented to them for some time, the Shanghai Fire Brigade did good work and had the blaze under control in less than an hour-and-a-quarter from the time to alarm was given. Morning traffic on Nanking Road was blocked for a considerable time as nearly every unit in the brigade battled with the flames. To clear the block, the police had to divert traffic down side-streets as in a short time Nanking Road was jammed.
Eighteen machines turned out to this morning’s fire. The Fire Brigade equipment including three turn-table escapes, while both floats, the Fire Dragon and the Mih-ho-loong pumped water from the Whangpoo at Nanking Road Jetty.
The first alarm was given by a police constable, and within one minute the Fire Brigade watchtower in the Sassoon building reported smoke. The whole Whiteaway building is at present encircled with a bamboo fence and the roof covered with a bamboo matting during the reconstruction work which has been in progress for some time past, and this rendered observation of the building very difficult.
The fire apparently broke out in the attic on the fifth floor, used as a store-room, and spread to the roof and the matting above, and then to the fourth floor. Only in one place did it come through to the third floor, being quickly checked by the firemen. The roof of the adjacent Laidlaw building on Szechuan Road was also destroyed.
With no internal hydrants nor pumping connections in the building, it was necessary for the firemen to lay hose all the way up to the top of the building. The first line was taken up the stairway at the Szechuan Road entrance, and the smart work carried out by the firemen here was responsible to no small degree in holding the fire.
Work with the escapes to take lines of hose to the upper floors proved extremely difficult. When the top of an escape touched the bamboo fence, it was still at least six feet from the building itself, and firemen who managed to tear down sections of the fence and then cross to the stonework did so over a drop of 40 feet. Two firemen were slightly injured by falling bamboos.
Construction planks and trestles on the fourth floor hampered the work of the brigade greatly, as did the surface of the staircase up which hose was taken. This latter has all been broken up preparatory to being refaced with mosaic tiles, and was in a very rough state.
The whole of the interior of the Whiteaway Laidlaw store was sodden with water, and holes had to be made in every floor to assist to dispersal of the water.
— Excerpt from North China Herald
(November 11, 1930)