100 Years Ago

FRANKFURT, GERMANY: OCT 1, 1909 — An explosion started a fire in the building housing the naval exhibit of the International Air Navigation Exposition, quickly enveloping the structure in flames. Responding firemen worked valiantly, saving threatened buildings adjacent to the blaze. Later, the body of an electrician was found in the ruins.

PITTSBURGH, PA: OCT. 2, 1909 — Just after noon, a fire broke out in the warehouse of the Macbeth-Evans Glass Co. and Patterson Coal and Supply Co. and destroyed the building. Flames poured from the building and spread rapidly to nearby structures. After burning railcars standing on a nearby track, the fire reached the Wolf Brush Co. building and a lumberyard.

NIAGARA FALLS, NY: OCT. 2, 1909 — The entire business section of the city was threatened by a fire that started in the Croop Brothers' Store, between First and Second streets, and swept through the Allen Block. Fire conditions were so severe that Buffalo sent two engines to back up the local firemen. The flames spread so rapidly that a number of people were trapped in their hotels. Firemen carried out four people overcome by the dense smoke. Two firemen were also rendered unconscious by smoke.

OAKDALE, NY: OCT. 2, 1909 — An early-morning fire destroyed the stable and carriage house on the 1,000-acre summer estate of "Commodore" Frederick Gilbert Bourne, president of the Singer Manufacturing Co. The carriage house contained many valuable horses, ornate carriages and elaborate harnesses. Employees of the estate salvaged all of the valuables as the fire began to spread. Volunteer firemen responding included the Sayville and West Sayville departments. The fire had gained so much headway that by the time operations began the original two buildings were fully involved. A nearby garage housing many expensive automobiles was protected and the vehicles were saved.

MILTON, NH: OCT. 9, 1909 — A shower of sparks from a railroad locomotive ignited a blaze within the block-long row of waterfront ice houses owned by the Boston Ice Co., spreading with amazing speed across the wooden rooftops before the town's single fire engine could be brought to the scene. Rolling in, the rig immediately began protecting nearby homes. Flaming embers from the fire were blown by strong winds across the Salmon Falls River, igniting a major fire that destroyed more than a dozen cabins in Lebanon, ME.

QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC: OCT. 16, 1909 — A blaze starting in the Canadian Northern Railway Co.'s elevator was spread by strong winds and extended to several warehouses and the customs house. A number of ships docked nearby were saved, including one ship that had been badly damaged by a previous collision and towed to safety. A fireman was killed battling the blaze.

BALTIMORE, MD: OCT. 17, 1909 — A fire was discovered on the sixth floor of the huge double-building at the southeast corner of Baltimore and Eutaw streets. The building housed several clothing manufacturers and their stored goods provided ample fuel. Explosions believed to be from accumulations of leaking gas rocked the building. Several firemen were injured as a huge section of the building collapsed onto an exposure. This building, 327 West Baltimore St., sustained severe damage.

KANSAS CITY, MO: OCT. 30, 1909 — During a Halloween assembly taking place at the Loretto Academy, a Catholic boarding school for girls, two students received burns that were so severe they would prove fatal within hours. The student actors wore light Eskimo costumes covered with cotton to represent snow and the stage was also covered with cotton and tinsel to depict the North Pole. One child tripped over a jack o' lantern that ignited the costumes of two other children. Another child was injured when she attempted to save her companions. A panic was averted by the coolness of the Mother Superior and several sisters.

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.