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WASHINGTON, DC: DEC. 6, 1912 – Colonel Spencer Cosby of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the White House administrator and commissioner, announced to the other commissioners of the District of Columbiathat the water mains on the White House grounds were not sufficient nor was the pressure great enough to combat a fire in the historic building. They answered that the authorization for improvements could only come from Congress, and Spencer vowed to carry on the fight. (Spencer was famous for the planting of more than 3,000 of the famed Japanese cherry trees in Potomac Park.)
PARIS, FRANCE: DEC. 7, 1912 – A short-circuiting wire caused a fast-spreading fire that seriously damaged the St. Denis electrical light and power station, plunging large sections of the “City ofLight” into darkness. The blaze began just before 6 P.M. and, despite the response of a large contingent of firefighters, grew to alarming proportions. Fifteen minutes later, subway trains ground to a halt as the lights in the trains and tunnels slowly dimmed. By 7 P.M., all passengers had been safely removed from the trains and tunnels and large crowds waited to hear when full power would be restored.
CINCINNATI, OH: DEC. 11, 1912 – A workman’s torch was believed to have ignited a blaze that menaced the entire downtown area. The fire broke out just after 8 P.M. in the rear of the Gibson Hotel and quickly spread to a neighboring department store and then to the Union Trust Bank. Inside the bank, 45 women were at work cleaning offices in the seven-story building. More than 20 of them were trapped until rescuers ran elevators back and forth through the smoke and flames. In all, nine persons were injured and damage neared $1 million. Firefighters were on scene until the next day cooling hot spots and checking the smoldering debris.
PARIS, FRANCE: DEC. 14, 1912 – The Municipal Council announced its decision to purchase a new type of automobile fire engine. The machine was said to be of light construction and would carry four men and a large tank containing 105 gallons of water. The plan was to allow the engine to arrive at a fire and immediately pump water while additional water connections were made. This was hoped to be a vast improvement over the cumbersome equipment being used by the Paris Fire Brigade and other major departments around the world.
PATERSON, NJ: DEC. 15, 1912 – A fire smoldering in Christmas goods burst into flames just before 6:30 A.M. and quickly spread to all six floors of the J.S. Diskon Department Store, on the northwest corner of Mainand Van Houten streets. Under the command of Chief Coyle, the entire department battled the expanding firefront, taking terrible punishment as the firemen attempted to stop the waves of heat and smoke. In a long, tough fight, the chief directed a three-pronged attack that slowed, then finally stopped the spreading wall of flames. With renewed vigor, they began to inch forward pressing the attack. After two hours, with many firemen injured or unconscious due to the thick smoke and extreme heat, the fire was under control. In all, six buildings were destroyed. Firemen remained on scene late into the night.
BROOKLYN, NY: DEC. 16, 1912 – While battling a blaze on a barge moored on the Gowanus Canal, Fireman Leddy of Ladder Company 59 (now known as 109) was hit by a boom, stunned and hurled into the canal. Fireman Deja of Engine Company 202 leaped into the icy water fully clothed and at great personal risk swam out and saved the semi-conscious fireman.
GREAT NECK, NY: DEC. 16, 1912 – Sparking electrical wires started a blaze that killed seven show horses, as fire swept through a large brick and frame barn on a huge estate on Middle Neck Road. Employees of the estate saved eight horses before they were driven back by the high heat. Also lost were several ornate carriages and other expensive tackle. The barn stood on the crest of a large hill and the flames could be seen for miles. Responding firefighters were hampered by the poor water supply.
LONDON, ENGLAND: DEC. 17, 1912 – After days of militant protest, English suffragists took their battle against the government first to the post boxes by damaging the mail with ink and other liquids, then switched their attacks to a fire alarm box. The damaged box initiated a false alarm that sent responding brigade members directly into the throng of women and their supporters. One person was arrested for setting a fire in a nearby train station. The suffragist protests were spreading and gaining supporters, but equal voting rights for women would not be fully realized in theUnited Kingdomuntil 1928. (The United States granted equal voting rights in 1920.)
BROOKLYN, NY: DEC. 23, 1912 – Chief Lally and a large portion of the Brooklyn Fire Department spent a busy two hours battling three separate fires within a short distance of one another in the Williamsburg section. Firefighting was helped by the unusually calm, still weather. The first fire was in the basement of a four-story tenement on Siegel Streetand firemen knocked it down before it could extend upward. The next blaze was around the corner in a three-story frame factory on Broadway. The flames were already extending as firemen went to work. The fire reached five other buildings and required four alarms before being brought under control. The last fire was discovered in six-story tenement on Humboldt Streetwhere firemen rescued a woman. Chief Fire Marshal Brophy was quickly on scene to investigate what he termed “suspicious fires.”
TUXEDO PARK, NY: DEC. 23, 1912 – Volunteer firefighters were called out to a fire in the Wyckes Mansionon top of Pine Hill. Flames that apparently were ignited by faulty wiring were confined to the upper story. Only a caretaker was in the large house at the time of the fire. There was several thousand dollars in damage, but no injuries.
AMESBURY, MA: DEC. 25, 1912 – Relics of the famed American poet and editor John Greenleaf Whittier, including autographed letters to the poet from notables all over the world and manuscripts, were burned or seriously damaged by smoke and water by a fire in the Whittier House Association building. The fire appeared to have started in the furnace and had greatly spread by the time it was noticed. Only a small amount of the collection was saved.
PLAINFIELD, NJ: DEC. 28, 1912 – During services at the Holy Cross Episcopal Church, the reverend discovered a small blaze among the holiday decorations. Hearing the crackling within the tree, he told the congregation there was no danger as he took water from the altar and doused the flames. Together, the reverend and the sextant extinguished the fire and removed the tree. The reverend returned, knelt before the altar and offered a prayer of thanks that the fire was not worse.