NORTH ADAMS, MA: JULY 2, 1912 – A disastrous fire tore through the business district, causing an estimated $800,000 in damage. The blaze broke out in the kitchen of Wilson’s Hotel and gained major headway before firemen could arrive. The firefighters had to help the more than 100 guests get to safety before concentrating on battling the flames. The fire soon extended to the four-story brick Empire apartment house, the nearby Empire Theatre and a seven-story furniture warehouse. The intense fire gutted all these structures.
SPRINGFIELD, MA: JULY 5, 1912 – An arson spree kept the fire department and the entire town on their toes as 12 separate alarms were answered in close proximity between noon and 7 P.M. Some of the alarms were received before the previous fire had been extinguished. Several people were rescued over a ladder during a fire in an apartment house. The 11th fire was a dangerous blaze in the sanctuary of Sacred Heart Church and only through quick work by firefighters was the building saved. The firebug was believed to have caused similar fires in other New England cities.
CHICAGO, IL: JULY 7, 1912 – A violent electrical storm swept over the city, breaking the backbone of an extended heat wave only to have the exceptionally heavy rainfall leave a flood in its wake. The fire department was swamped with calls for engines to pump out flooded basements. The lightning also did severe damage and the firemen responded to 42 alarms of fire while the storm was in progress.
ALLENHURST, NJ: JULY 8, 1912 – The Dunes Hotel, high on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, was the scene of a late-afternoon fire that was fanned by a stiff breeze and soon engulfed the entire structure. Calls went out to the Allenhurst and Asbury Park volunteer firefighters, but before they could find adequate water sources, the front and rear walls of the hotel collapsed. Flying brands ignited a nearby garage and several cottages, but these were quickly extinguished.
TONOPAH, NV: JULY 8, 1912 – Two blocks of the business district were destroyed by fire, including several office buildings. Scores of volunteers helped battle the flames, but could not stop the loss of the local newspaper and a number of homes. The loss was estimated at $250,000.
THOUSAND ISLANDS PARK, NY: JULY 9, 1912 – A fire discovered in a general store inside the annex of the Wellesley Hotel, which was situated directly behind the Columbian Hotel, was quickly out of control and spreading. Many park residents helped get a hose into operation, but within 15 minutes, the entire block behind the Columbian was a roaring furnace. Calls for help were sent to the Alexandria Bay, Clayton and Gananogue volunteer fire departments. Despite the best efforts of the firefighters, the flames jumped across the street to the Columbian. The huge, 220-room, wooden-structure was soon a mass of flames. Lost to the flames were the two hotels, 100 cottages and the New York State Educational Building.
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ: JULY 18, 1912 – While fighting a fire in the tower of City Hall, Captain Edward Barnett, 48, was killed instantly when his lantern came in contact with a high-voltage arc light circuit. The city’s chief electrician and a score of firemen were knocked unconscious and hurled down a narrow flight of steps. Several of the firefighters were seriously injured by the 15-foot fall. A large crowd watched the flames dance around the clock and small windows, then heard the cries of the injured. Other firemen moved in to aid their comrades and extinguish the fire.
LAKE HOPATCONG, NJ: JULY 21, 1912 – A fire that burned a huge icehouse attracted a large crowd. Flames ate away the exterior walls of the building and fused the piled blocks of ice inside. As the smoke cleared, everyone was startled to see a huge, glistening iceberg where the building had been.
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA: JULY 20, 1912 – Flames swept through an entire business block and the British Columbia electric railway car barns. Also destroyed was the Royal George Hotel. Many of the people in the hotel were asleep and were rescued with great difficulty. Damage was estimated at $500,000.
PAUL HASHAGEN, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a retired FDNY firefighter who was assigned to Rescue 1 in Manhattan. He is also an ex-chief of the Freeport, NY, Fire Department. Hashagen is the author of FDNY: The Bravest, An Illustrated History 1865-2002, the official history of the New York City Fire Department, and other fire service books. His latest novel, Fire of God, is available at dmcfirebooks.com.