« AnteriorContinuar »
4. It is recommended that the attorney for the owners of the burned cabin be informed that the evidence indicates the fire to have been started by parties other than United States employees and that no cognizance can be taken of the claim filed.
BIRMINGHAM, ALA., March 10, 1937. In re: Claim for damages for R. Brinskelle and Charlie Melcher for destruction by
fire of their cabin located near Bell's Camp in the vicinity of the junction of
Hurricane Creek with the Warrior River, Jefferson County, Ala. UNITED STATES ENGINEERS,
Washington, D. C. UNITED STATES ENGINEERS,
Mobile, Ala. Mr. J. L. YOUNG,
Jackson Building, Birmingham, Ala. GENTLEMEN: This is to advise you that on, to wit, Saturday, March 6, 1937, a crew of men working under you in the vicinity of the above-referred-to cabin left burning brush in such a dangerous proximity to the cabin as that the same caught fire and was destroyed after your men left the fire in question The cabin being destroyed about 6 p. m., on Saturday, March 6, 1937.
The loss herein mentioned having been occasioned solely as a result of the negligence of your servants, agents, or employees in and about their work, this claim is hereby made and filed for the actual loss and damage in question which is itemized as follows: Destruction of 3-room cabin and porches, valued at date of destruction.. $800 Total destruction of household furniture situated in said cabin, consisting of 3 bedroom suits and kitchen furniture and other furniture...
350 Total loss and damage...
1, 150 Two witnesses to the facts herein set forth are Mr. and Mrs. Bell, the owners of the premises herein referred to as Bell's Camp, whose property adjoins the property destroyed and who were present upon said premises throughout the major part of the day here in question and who permanently reside on said premises.
In the event this claim is not in the proper form, please furnish the writer of this letter with proper forms that the same may be more formally made out and presented at the earliest practical moment, all to the end that the owners of said property will be reimbursed for the damages.
Very truly yours,
W. S. PRITCHARD, Attorney for R. Brinskelle and Charlie Melcher.
VERIFICATION STATE OF ALABAMA,
Jefferson County: This day personally appeared before me the undersigned authority, a notary public, in and for said State and county, one R. Brinskelle, who is personally known to me, and who by me having been first duly sworn on oath deposes and says:
That he is the person referred to as being one of the joint owners of the property described in the foregoing letter, and that the facts therein stated are true.
R. BRINSKELLE. Sworn to and subscribed before me this the 10th day of March 1937.
PEGGY GOHAN, Notary Public.
BIRMINGHAM, ALA., March 10, 1937. Subject: Burning of house on Warrior River, at mouth of Hurricane Creek. To: Mr. Randolph Thrasher, Assistant Engineer, United States Engineer Office,
1. On Monday, March 8, 1937, Mr. R. Brinskelle of Birmingham, called at the United States Engineer Office, Birmingham, Ala., and stated that on Saturday afternoon, March 6, 1937, a house owned by him was burned down. Mr. Brinskelle stated that the fire started by our crew which was burning debris on the Chichester property on Hurricane Creek, was allowed to get away from them, setting the woods afire. That the woods fire thus started burned his house.
On Tuesday, March 9, 1937, I made an investigation of this fire. The following report, conclusions, and recommendations are submitted:
The house destroyed by fire was a three-room and kitchen affair with screened front porch. It had some furniture in it. The remains of a stove, six beds, and some broken dishes was all that could be identified. The property belongs to R. Brinskelle and Charles T. Melcher, and consists of a lot 100 by 100 feet in the northeast quarter of northwest quarter of section 2, township 18 south, range 7 west, Jefferson County, Ala. See map attached. This property sits on a high hill, one-fourth of a mile northwest of Chichester's slough.
I was unable to find any person who would say that he saw the fire start.
I interviewed the following-named persons: R. C. Hyche, L. M. Hammack, Herman Miklic, Henley Bush, Bud Naramore, Denton Raney, L. D. Gwin, Wyman Jones, A. A. McCraw, Clarence Hyche, William D. Dunn, G. E. Williamson, and Mr. Edwards.
All of these men are employed on the clearing job, the last-named, Mr. Edwards, being the foreman in charge.
From these men I learned that Friday, March 5, they burned on Hurricane Creek and in Chichester Slough. That a watchman was on hand Friday night. That on Saturday morning several of the fires were still smoldering and were stirred up so they would burn out. That no new fires were started on Saturday; the men merely cut and stacked piles to burn on the following Monday.
Mr. Dunn and Mr. Williamson are the “burners” in the party. Both of these men state positively that at quitting time Saturday the fires that were stirred up that morning had completely burned out.
The entire crew stated that they did not believe it was possible for the fire complained of to have been set out from the clearing fires they had Saturday morning.
Before fires are started, a space between the area to be burned and the adjacent woods is thoroughly raked. It appears that every reasonable precaution was taken in the burning. Mr. Edwards stated that his instructions Saturday from Mr. McLeod were to use every precaution and to keep a watchman on duty if he considered it necessary.
He stated that the fires had burned out and he did not consider a watchman necessary.
I also interviewed the following people:
Mrs. J. E. Bell, who lives across Hurricane Creek and directly opposite this property. Mrs. Bell stated that her husband was in the bathroom shaving and that when she happened to look out she saw the Brinskelle house falling in. That she had been out a little while before that and would have seen the woods afire at the slough where the Government was clearing, if they had been afire.
Mr. (. T. Chapin, who lives on the Camp Oliver Road stated that just about dusk Saturday he noticed this fire and while watching it, heard the building collapse. He stated there was very little breeze, that the smoke seemed to be in one spot, was black, and went straight up. That the wind was from the northnorthwest, but very light.
I examined carefully the burned area, which is heavily wooded. I found where, in my opinion, the fire originated. This point is on a slough emptying into the Warrior River (see sketch attached). The fire traveled up the slough onto the hill on which the Brinskelle house was located, and then on down the hill to Chichester's slough. All of the trees in the burned area, for from 2 to 4 feet from the ground, are burned on the up side. None of the trees are burned on the down side. This indicates conclusively that the fire traveled down the hill with the wind and not up the hill against the wind.
Conclusion: The clearing party under Mr. Edwards, used every precaution as instructed by Mr. McLeod. Mr. Edwards knew that his fires were out and did not see the necessity of having a watchman. All fires are built as near the water as possible.
That, as far as I could learn, no one saw the fire start.
All statements are to the effect that the clearing fires were out and could not have caused the fire.
That the trees in the burned area being burnt only on the up side, the fire undoubtedly originated northwest of the Brinskelle house, burnt the house and continued in a southeasterly direction to Chichester's Slough.
It is recommended that the Federal Government take no cognizance of Mr. Brinskelle's claim and that he be so advised.
John L. YOUNG,
Tuscaloosa, Ala., March 12, 1937. To: Mr. F. F. Gatlin, Senior Engineer (Civil), Mobile, Ala.
1. The owner of the burned house mentioned in Mr. Young's report claims this fire damaged him to the extent of $1,500. This does not seem to be an unreasonable amount for a house and furniture as described in the first paragraph of Mr. Young's report; however, this property has not been seen and examined by an Engineer Department employee previous to the fire.
2. This fire was investigated by me on March 9, 1937, which was 3 days after its occurrence, and the facts were found to be exactly as quoted in the above report as to the direction from which the fire came. The only additional fact to be added in this endorsement is that there is an illicit still near the river that was thought to have been operated on the afternoon that this fire occurred. The owner of the still is unknown, and it is located as shown on the attached sketch. Every indication is that this fire started at or near the still and burned toward the house from that direction, and not from the direction of the clearing-party operations.
3. This office is in agreement with Mr. Young's recommendation that the Engineer Department take no cognizance of Mr. Brinskelle's claim, and that he be so advised.
J. R. THRASHER,
AFFIDAVIT OF R. BRINSKELLE IN SUPPORT OF CLAIM FOR DESTRUCTION BY FIRE
OF HOUSE AND FURNITURE OWNED BY HIM, With CHARLIE MELCHER, LOCATED NEAR THE JUNCTION OF HURRICANE CREEK WITH THE WARRIOR RIVER IN
JEFFERSON COUNTY, ALA., ON OR ABOUT March 6, 1937 STATE OF ALABAMA,
Jefferson County. This day personally appeared before the undersigned authority, a notary public in and for the above-named State and County, one R. Brinskelle, who is personally known to me, and who being by me first duly sworn, on oath deposes and says:
He is, was on March 6, 1937, and had been for more than 5 years next preceding, the owner jointly with one Charlie Melcher, whose address is 8400 First Avenue, Birmingham, Ala., of the cabin located near the junction of Hurricane Creek with the Warrior River in Jefferson County, Ala., known as “Brinskelle's Cabin” near Bell's Camp. That said cabin and its contents were totally destroyed by fire on the afternoon of March 6, 1937.
A description and the value of the said cabin and household furniture so destroyed is as follows: Destruction of three-room cabin and porches, valued at date of destruction. $800 Total destruction of household furniture situated in said cabin, consisting of 3 bedroom suites and kitchen furniture and other furniture...
Total loss and damages.--
1, 150 The said loss and damage as above itemized was proximately caused by the negligence of employees of the United States Government working on March 6, 1937 in the vicinity of the junction of Hurricane Creek with the Warrior River, said ziegligence consisting in this:
Said servants, agents, or employees of the United States working as part of or under the supervision of the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army, and while engaged in clearing the bank and burning the brush in said neighborhood, negligently caused or allowed fires started by them in the course of their said work to be communicated to the adjacent woods and destroy affiant's said property located approximately 450 feet away from said fire.
Witnesses to the said negligent act and the said loss and damage, and their addresses are as follows:
James Hawkins, care of Bells Camp.
Joe Bell, care of Bells Camp. The sketch submitted to W. S. Pritchard, counsel for affiant, setting up the theory that affiant's property was destroyed by fire from a "wildcat” whisky still in the neighborhood, and not from the fire set out by the said engineers and/or their servants or agents has been carefully checked by affiant, and the conclusions based thereon by the said engineers are totally false, which fact is self apparent in this: The woods between the said old still and affiant's cabin are not burned even to this date in the path the fire would necessarily have traveled if started from said still going to said house, with the wind direction shown on said plat.
The truth and fact is that at the time of said loss and damage the wind direction was directly opposite to that shown on the plat. The woods are burned from the place where the engineers or their said agents set out said fires directly to affiant's said cabin and so show to this date. Not being burned between the said cabin and the said still, it is, of course, foolish to contend that the fire started from the still.
The still in question had not been fired, and there had been no fire around the still for more than a week prior to the loss and damage.
Demand is hereby made that affiant be compensated for the loss and damage herein itemized and set forth.
R. BRINSKELLE. Sworn to and subscribed before me, this the 25th day of March 1937.
Peggy Gohan, Notary Public.
STATEMENT OF R. BRINSKELLE STATE OF ALABAMA,
Jefferson County: Personally appeared before me the undersigned authority in and for said county in said State, R. Brinskelle, who being by me first duly sworn deposes and says that he is a resident citizen of Birmingham, Jefferson County, Ala.; and that he is 57 years of age. Affiant further says that he was the joint owner of a cabin located on the Warrior River at a point just north of the mouth of Hurricane Creek, and that Charlie Melcher owned the other one-half interest in said cabin. Affiant further says that said cabin was destroyed by fire on the night of March 6, 1937.
Affiant further says that he was not present at the time the cabin was destroyed by fire, but that he left his home in the city of Birmingham and drove to the river and the site of the cabin, about 29 miles from his home, and that when he reached the site of the cabin about 8 o'clock on the morning of March 7, 1937, he found the cabin had been destroyed by fire, and that the ruins were still smoking. Affiant further says that he went over the whole territory and observed the condition of the territory on the morning of March 7. And that on the 15th of April 1937, he took an employee of the Birmingham View Co. by the name of Mr. Powell, to the site of the cabin, and that he took a number of views of the territory surrounding the cabin site. And further that affiant hereto attaches four views of this territory, and designates them as exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, and exhibit D, and makes said views a part of this affidavit.
Affiant further says that on the northwest side of said cabin site is the Warrior River and that exhibit A is a view taken from a point near the river bank on the northwest side of said cabin site, and that on this view at the extreme lower right-hand side shows a part of a small whisky still; facing up the hill along the sky line and at the point marked "1" is the approximate location of the camp site, that is, across the hill on the sky line. And further that all of the area in the foreground of this picture between the point where the still is shown up to the cabin site is covered with leaves, dead grasses, and small bushes and twigs. And that on the morning of March 7, 1937, this area was the same as it appears in the picture. And further, that there was no evidence of any fire in the territory covered by this picture other than the burnings made by the Government employees in the burning operations. And further, that the objects marked "Nos. 2 and 3" is the wood ashes from these burning operations, and that the area immediately beyond the still going uphill and back around to the ash heaps marked "No. 2” is free from any brush, leaves, or objects that were inflammable.
Affiant further says that exhibit B is taken from a point a little north of the point where exhibit A was taken from, and that this view is looking almost south and showing a part of Hurricane Creek, which is marked “No. 1” on the picture, and further, that the still is also shown in the said picture marked "Exhibit B,” which is the round object against the logs which is marked “No. 2”; and that the ash heap marked "No. 2" in exhibit A is indicated by “No. 3” on this exhibit; and that Nos. 4 and 5 are also ashes from the burning operations of the Government employees, and that No. 6, ash heap in this exhibit, is the same ash heap marked "No. 3” in exhibit A. And further, that this gives a view also of the dead leaves, grass, weeds, and brushes that are not burned and was not burned on the morning of March 7. And further, that this still and the area immediately up hill from the still is the territory which Maj. T. D. Stamps, Corps of Engineers, of the office of Chief of Engineers of the War Department at Washington, stated in his letter that the fire spread from and destroyed the cabin, and that it was located approximately one-half mile northwest of the area which was being cleared by the employees of this Department. And further, that the whisky still as indicated by the picture in exhibit A is approximately 300 feet from the cabin site. And further, that exhibit B clearly indicates the line where the Government clearing was done.
Affiant further says that exhibit C is a picture taken on the southeast side of the cabin site, and about 20 feet from the water's edge of Hurricane Creek. And further, that the camera is set looking in the direction of the site where exhibits A and B were taken. And further, that in the immediate foreground marked “No. 1” is the ash heaps from the Government burning and the area cleared in the immediate foreground is a part of the clearing by the Government; and that the approximate site of the cabin is marked "No. 2" in this exhibit, which is on the sky line on top of the hill. Affiant further says that on the morning of March 7, 1937, when he reached the site of the cabin this entire area between the point marked "No. 1,” the ash heap, up to and surrounding the cabin was completely burned off, and that there were stumps, chunks of wood, and parts of trees still smoking in this entire area. And further, that affiant says that he went within 50 feet of the point marked "No. 1” on this exhibit and observed parts of logs still burning, and two or three other log heaps smoldering and burning, and that the said log heaps were to the right of this picture as indicated by an arrow and on the banks of Chichester Slough.
Affiant further says that the view as shown by exhibit D is facing in the general direction of north or northeast, and that the roadway is along the crest of the hill and the photographer stood within 20 feet of the site of the destroyed cabin, which is a few feet of the point marked "No. 1” in this view. The views as shown in exhibits A and B were taken in the direction as indicated by the arrow marked “2," that is down the hill and on the banks of the Warrior River and in the direction of the still. The arrow marked “No. 3” is the direction of the site of the camera when exhibit C was taken, that is down the hill and on the banks of Hurricane Creek next to Chichester Slough. Affiant further says that the area on the left-hand side of the picture going from the road down to the point where the whisky still was located was covered with dead leaves, twigs, brush, and grass on the morning of March 7, as appears in this picture, that is, on the left-hand side of the roadway. And that the area on the right-hand side of the roadway in the curve of the road as appears in the photograph was a part of the area where there were stumps, chunks of wood, and parts of trees smoking and burning. And further that the house was located on the right-hand side of the road in this view.
Affiant further says that in the background of exhibit D shows a part of the area that the Government forces cleared that the fire burned across the road to the right side and back toward the cabin. This area is marked “No. 4,” and the hollow immediately to the left of this number is the hollow that the Government forces claim this fire came up from the whisky still. Affiant says that he went over this territory on the morning of March 7, and observed the conditions of the ground, and that there had been no recent fire on this territory, that is, there