DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT LIVERPOOL AND LOSS OF LIFE. -- Since Wednesday week there have occurred no fewer than four fires in Liverpool, involving the destruction of property to the extent of £*00,00, and by one of them which occurred on Thursday, several lives, we regret to have to state, were sacrificed. This conflagration commenced about half past eight o'clock in the morning, in the extensive sugar refining manufactory of Mr. James BRANCHER (late Sir T. & J. BRANCHER), situated between Harrington and Matthew-streets, occupying an area of 4000 yards. There are usually employed on their premises 120 and 130 men: these men work almost in a state of nudity.
At the time the fire occurred, the greater part of the men were lying upon the floor resting themselves, it being the breakfast hour, and the first intimation they received of it was from a shout which ran generally through the building, "Men, save your lives, the place is on fire." As might naturally be expected, the men were thrown into a state of great excitement, and their fears were increased, when on looking out from the top stories, they saw the flames and smoke bursting forth with intense fury.
Those in the lower parts of the buildings managed to escape without much difficulty, but those who were unfortunately situated at the top of the premises fared considerably worse. They ran to the staircase, but found there was no escape in that direction, in consequence of the volumes of smoke which were making their way upwards, and in their agony of despair, they rushed to the windows and called for aid. In the meantime the arm of fire had reached the fire-police station, situated a very short distance from the place, and an engine was immediately got out and conveyed to Matthew-street.
Perceiving the imminent danger of the men, Mr. HEW*** returned to the station, and with the assistance of his brother and other men, brought ladders to the rescue of the poor fellows who were standing on the outside of the building in a state of nakedness, amidst dense masses of smoke, momentarily expecting to be consumed by the raging fire beneath them, which was every instant increasing. The scene at this time in Harrington-street and Matthew-street was of the most heart-rending and appalling nature. Men who had just themselves been rescued, were running about naked, bewailing in a half-frantic manner the pending fate of their fellow-labourers, and crying in the wildest manner for help.
Women and children were searching for a husband or parent, whom they could not recognize even when found, in consequence of their disfigurement, and despair seemed to have taken possession of every countenance. Most of the men were cut by the glass in endeavouring to make their way through the windows, and, with scarcely an exception, they have lost the whole of their clothing. This, with the loss of their employment, will, we fear, make them great sufferers by this lamentable occurrence. It was with the greatest difficulty that the fire was prevented from extending to the adjoining warehouse.
About a quarter to one the gable end of the building towards Matthew-street, fell outwards, but fortunately no one was injured by it. The description of the narrow escapes, and the frightful position in which many of the unfortunate men were placed, is perfectly appalling. The loss sustained, including building, machinery, pods, &c., is estimated under £70,000. A considerable portion of this is insured.