This 1900 photo shows Ocala, FL, firefighters leaving their dormitory to go to a fire. Note the mosquito netting around the beds and lack of a guard around the pole hole. The station was built in 1894. At the time this photo was made, the department consisted of two hose wagons, a hook-and-ladder truck, a chief’s buggy and three horses. Firemen were paid $35 per month and worked 6½ days a week continuously.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Ocala Fire Rescue
OIL CITY, LA: DEC. 1, 1911 – Two large fires blazed in separate areas of the rich Caddo oil fields. One fire destroyed half of the boomtown known as Oil City, including the Stag Hotel and Delmonico Hotel, several restaurants and cafes and a number of homes. Firefighters and oil-field workers saved the Norman Hotel during a desperate struggle. One worker was seriously injured when he fell from the roof of the hotel. It was said that disgruntled squatters might have set the fire. The second fire occurred in the Gulf Refining plant when a forest fire moved to within 600 feet of storage tanks containing 6,000 barrels of oil. Volunteer firefighters set backfires to clear brush near the plant and halt the spreading flames.
JERSEY CITY, NJ: DEC. 4, 1911 – Four major fires within a 10-hour period taxed the resources of the Jersey City Fire Department and required two general alarms and mutual aid to extinguish the fires during a raging blizzard. The first fire, at 2 A.M., was in a block-long, four-story brick stable that housed 400 horses and 150 wagons. A collapsing wall critically injured Lieutenant William Bergen of Engine 3 and Fireman John Kelly Engine 10. The flames also killed the building watchman. The fire then spread to a dozen adjoining tenements, driving scores of families into the driving snow. As this fire was being fought, a blaze in a hotel on Oldberg Road was discovered and fire engines responded through the snow-clogged streets to extinguish it. Later, at 11 A.M., a fire was reported in a box factory that occupied an entire block at Golden and Varrick streets. Strong winds whipped the flames throughout the five-story building, said to be one of the largest box companies in the nation. The fire then jumped the street and ignited a lumber and coal yard, which in turn spread the flames to several more buildings. Mutual aid was requested from Hoboken and New York City.
BURLINGTON, NJ: DEC. 19, 1911 – A trolley car carrying three employees and eight passengers plunged into the Assiscunk Creek when the entire 80-foot span of the iron bridge they were crossing collapsed beneath them. A passerby pulled a fire-alarm box and firemen arrived quickly to aid in the rescue work. A team of workers from a nearby lumber mill took a boat to the partially submerged trolley car, chopped a hole through the roof and pulled several people to safety. Another rescue team chopped away iron window bars that trapped several other riders. Firemen placed ladders and used ropes to help pull the victims from the wreckage.
GREENWICH, CT: DEC. 28, 1911 – Gale-force winds spread flames through a sanitarium on Palmer’s Hill. Twenty patients were asleep in the rooms above when the fire was discovered. Heroic work by the doctors and staff safely removed everyone, including an infant. Greenwich volunteer firemen responded six miles with their chemical engine and saved a neighboring home that was being bombarded with flaming embers driven by the winds. Firemen also then saved a stable that ignited in similar fashion. The sanitarium was a total loss.
CLEVELAND, OH: DEC. 29, 1911 – Firemen made a difficult rescue from a blazing apartment above a burning bakery. The fire started in the ovens on the first floor in the rear and spread quickly, trapping the baker’s family above. Firemen reached the mother and her 10-year-old son in the front second-floor bedroom, but could not reach four other children trapped in a fire-filled room in the rear.