100 Years Ago

BALTIMORE, MD: FEB. 1, 1910 — A fire that started among bales of packing straw stored at the Eisenhauer, MacLean and Co. lumber dealers yards spread quickly, driven by high winds. Within a few minutes, the entire lumberyard was involved in flames that also ignited fires in adjacent properties housing box companies and an oil storage yard. At the high point of the blaze, flames leaped a 70-foot-wide street and endangered the tanks of the Standard Oil Co. More than 300 people were put out of work by the $250,000 fire.

BROOKLYN, NY: FEB. 3, 1910 — Responding to an alarm of fire at 55th Street and Third Avenue, Hose Tender 141 (Engine 141, now 241), driven by Fireman Frederick Mayer, had to pass between an elevated railway structure and northbound trolley tracks. Mayer saw a southbound automobile approaching and tried to maneuver his rig clear of chunks of ice piled up by a street-cleaning crew. As he began to move away from the tracks, a 15-year-old girl darted from behind the car and directly into the path of the galloping team of fire horses. Mayer took evasive actions to avoid the girl and struck the elevated railway pillar with the pole attached to the horse team. Mayer was thrown from the rig and killed as his head struck the pavement. The company captain and the other members on the rig at the time escaped serious injuries. The girl was not harmed.

NORTHAMPTON, MA: FEB. 4, 1910 — Twenty-five Smith College female students were forced to flee their dormitory as the shout of "Fire!" echoed through the building. Having just been seated for dinner, the young women made a hasty escape as flames destroyed the entire rear section of their building. Their cries attracted the entire student body to the scene. The students then watched firemen battle the large blaze.

BROOKLYN, NY: FEB. 7, 1910 — Firefighters were called to battle a blaze caused by an overheated stove within the Calvary Episcopal Church, a frame structure at Ralph Street and Bushwick Avenue. Temperatures were so severe that water from the hose streams began freezing as it left the nozzles. For several hours, they fought the elements and the fire. Each time a hose team was relieved, the nozzleman's hands had to be pried from their frozen position. Sympathetic neighbors brought pails of hot coffee to the freezing firemen, who stopped the flames from spreading to the adjoining structures.

MORRISTOWN, NJ: FEB. 7, 1910 — While the cook and her assistant were preparing the noon meal for patients of Memorial Hospital, the hot-water boiler exploded, badly injuring the two women and damaging the kitchen. Responding firemen found every window and door in the three-story building blown out and flames burning among the shattered timbers inside. The 125 patients were led to safety as the firemen moved in on the fire. The two cooks suffered severe scalding and internal injuries.

WASHINGTON, DC: FEB. 10, 1910 — Fire broke out in the Hotel Harris, near Union Station, just after 2 A.M. Hundreds of sleeping guests were thrown into a panic as they tried to escape the smoke-filled building. A family of three leaped from a third-floor window and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Another guest suffered serious burns and he was also transported. Firemen quickly doused the fire and damage to the building was kept at $5,000.

RED BANK, NJ: FEB. 26, 1910 — The insistent barking of a dog drove his sleeping master from bed. The man went downstairs to find the annoying animal, only to be confronted by a wall of flames spreading from the kitchen. The man returned to the second floor for his son before escaping outside. The man, his son and the dog stood and watched the advanced flames burn the house to the ground despite the best efforts of firemen.

PAUL HASHAGEN, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a retired FDNY firefighter who was assigned to Rescue Company 1 in Manhattan. He is also an ex-chief of the Freeport, NY, Fire Department. Hashagen is the author of FDNY 1865–2000: Millennium Book, a history of the New York City Fire Department, and other fire service history books.