Rekindles

fire history of 1911


BANGOR, ME: MAY 1, 1911 – A late-afternoon fire that began a day earlier was finally brought under control after midnight. The blaze originated in a hay shed near the corner of Broad and Union streets, apparently started by a cigarette cast aside during a poker game. The flames swept northward...


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BROOKLYN, NY: MAY 26, 1911 – A fire of near-conflagration proportions destroyed the huge Dreamland Park amusement park in Coney Island. Workers were putting the finishing touches on “Hellgate,” the last attraction being readied for the Memorial Day opening. This new attraction, a boat ride through the caverns of Hell, featured dimly lit canyons, rapids and a giant whirlpool. At 1:30 A.M., workers were using hot tar to repair the leaking watercourse when suddenly the lights went out. A bucket of bubbling tar was knocked over and within seconds flames were licking the rafters above. The first alarm was sent in at 1:58 and a second was transmitted upon arrival. An ocean breeze pushed the flames from one flimsy structure to the next and fire hose streams began to weaken. Multiple alarms were transmitted, but the failure of the new high-pressure hydrant system (pressure dropped from 160 pounds to 20 pounds) and the delayed response of horse-drawn apparatus, because of the great distance and time required, allowed the fire to grow unchecked. Four alarms and a “simultaneous call” (sending all apparatus that would have responded to a third alarm at Sixth Avenue and Twenty-third Street in Brooklyn to Coney Island) swelled the assignment to 50 fire companies. One of the attractions was the Baby Incubator Building, where six premature babies were quickly evacuated to safety. Other attractions featured numerous wild animals, including an elephant, lions and tigers. Trainers were able to control the animals until the lights went out – then the frightened animals turned on each other. In all, 60 trained animals perished.

Thousands of spectators drawn by the eerie red glow of the fire descended on the park and watched as the fire marched across the park. At 3:10, the huge Dreamland Tower, which had been burning like a roman candle for more than 30 minutes, fell with a fiery crash. The wind eventually changed, sending the gasping crowd home. With this help, firemen stopped the last of the flames. As the sun rose the next morning, Dreamland had been transformed into 15 acres of blackened, smoking ruins. The loss was more than $5 million. The park’s board of directors later sold the land back to the city.

RAHWAY, NJ: MAY 30, 1911 – Just after noon, a fire started among waste materials in the Royal Manufacturing Co. plant. Storehouse 1 was a roaring furnace as firemen arrived. With flames licking the exposed oil building next door and Storehouse 2, firemen pressed the attack hoping to stop the fire’s extension to both buildings. To add problems, the wind carried sparks to the roofs of residences along Grand and Bridge streets. The chemical engine raced from building to building, extinguishing six fires, while the remainder of the department brought the fire under control without extension.