COLON, PANAMA: APRIL 2, 1913 – As more than 100 American employees of the Canal Commission were attending a performance in the Star Picture Theatre, a fire broke out in the projection room. The audience panicked as the smoke and fire became visible. Luckily, no one was killed as they fled the building. Flames soon overwhelmed the structure and threatened other nearby buildings with a shower of embers. Panamanian firefighters responded with their apparatus on a special train and held the fire to the original building.
CLIFTON, AZ: APRIL 7, 1913 – Five people were killed when a fire broke out in a small dwelling in the Chase Creek section and spread quickly. With no firefighting water available, the flames spread to 25 structures. Falling building walls took the lives of the five men killed. The damage was $200,000.
LEAVENWORTH, KS: APRIL 12, 1913 – Fire broke out in the Kansas Penitentiary twine-making factory when the armature of a twine machine motor overheated. The flames spread quickly, fueled by a half-inch film of oily lint that covered the floors and walls. Inmates spreading flaming papers to areas not yet ablaze apparently made the fire worse. Six hundred prisoners were at work in the yard when the flames started and helped the prison firemen battle the fire. Inmates housed in the prison’s insane ward, only 150 feet from the flames, became so panicked they had to be relocated to another section of the penitentiary. The fire destroyed four large buildings.
HAVERFORD, PA: APRIL 12, 1913 – Early in the morning, a fire started in the second floor of the Whitall Engineering Building. The alarm was transmitted to the Ardmore and Bryn Mawr fire companies. As the hose companies arrived, students pitched in by helping to stretch and operate hoselines. A water problem interrupted the battle for a time, but the flames were finally subdued. The work of many engineering students – drawing and plans that had been worked on for years – were lost to the flames.
KEARNY, NJ: APRIL 14, 1913 – Flames broke out on the fourth floor of the St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum on Belgrove Drive during the early evening. Fortunately, the 200 children, whose ages range from 5 to 11 years, were in the lower floors at the time and escape uninjured. Two nuns leading a troop of children upstairs discovered the fire. They saw the flames and turned the children around and retreated.
CROTONVILLE, NY: APRIL 15, 1913 – Grace Hall, an Episcopal chapel, caught fire during the afternoon. The fire was ignited by a portable furnace being used by a tinsmith who was making repairs to the roof. The brick structure was erected as a memorial to a former congressman by his children. It was opened for services in 1807. Firemen were able to save many valuable vestments, paintings, a piano and some furniture. Only the charred walls of the church itself remained. The loss was estimated at $40,000.
MALONE, NY: APRIL 18, 1913 – An explosion started a fire in the Hotel De Wilson, trapping many guests in their beds. Between 40 and 50 people were sleeping in the hotel at the time of the fire (the exact number was not known due to the destruction of the hotel’s register). A clerk working nearby heard the explosion and quickly turned in the alarm. The third floor was a mass of flames before the firemen arrived. Firefighting was hampered by a coating of sheet iron on the outside walls of the otherwise wooden hotel. The swiftly moving flames took the lives of nine people, left 15 others injured and virtually destroyed the hotel.
NEW YORK CITY: APRIL 18, 1913 – Firemen battling a blaze in the Turkish Baths on West 125th Street became completely enveloped in blinding, suffocating steam that, when released from the baths, spread throughout the building. The steam was so overwhelming that the men had to work in relays and short shifts. The fire started on the second floor, but spread to the first and third floors before it could be extinguished. n