Firefighters attack a basement fire in the U.S. Geological Survey building fire on F Street NW in Washington, DC, on May 18, 1913.
Photo credit: Photo from Library of Congress Collection
GARDEN CITY, NY: MAY 1, 1913 – Fire tore through five aviation hangars at Hempstead Plains, destroying a number of valuable flying machines. Among the craft lost was a splendid yellow monoplane, the largest on the field, a Curtiss-type biplane. The hangars housed many airplanes owned and operated by world-famous flyers. The flames also consumed special tools, plane parts and other items.
ONEONTA, NY: MAY 7, 1913 – Fire destroyed a milling plant and storehouses before spreading to other nearby structures. Firemen struggled valiantly and extinguished the spreading flames and saved a number of buildings. Damage was estimated at more than $200,000.
CHICAGO, IL: MAY 7, 1913 – A “false alarm” was transmitted to let the on-duty members of Truck Company 10 attend the wedding of one of their members. Fireman William Werner had met his soon-to-be wife after rescuing her from a fire several months earlier and was exchanging vows with her in a ceremony in her parents’ home. Several minutes after the alarm was transmitted, firemen entered the home in complete gear, including helmets, rubber coats and boots and tools.
WESTON, WV: MAY 7, 1913 – A 10-year-old boy, Robert Brinkley, ran a half-mile and flagged down a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passenger train, saving it and all 150 passengers onboard from crashing through a burning trestle. The underpinning of the structure was burned away when the boy discovered the fire. The full train would have plunged into a gorge surrounded by flames if not for the boy’s actions.
OSSINING, NY: MAY 10, 1913 – An early-morning alarm brought the Ossining Fire Department to the estate of Edgar Van Etten, former vice president of the Albany & Boston Railroad. Flames had engulfed a large brooder house that housed 1,500 chickens and 4,000 eggs. Firemen were aided by a bucket brigade and after several hours of work, they extinguished the main body of fire and saved the huge mansion. The brooder house was destroyed.
PARIS, FRANCE: MAY 10, 1913 – A boiler explosion caused the death of one worker and the serious injuries of several more. The house was severely damaged and the blast also caused damage to the home next door, the residence of the U.S. ambassador. The explosion set fire to the fence surrounding the property, but firemen arrived quickly and soon had matters under control.
NEWARK, NJ: MAY 12, 1913 – A fire that was started by a carelessly discarded match broke out in a Walnut Street cigar store. Annie Lukas, a 16-year-old girl employed in the store, immediately dashed upstairs and plunged into heavy smoke in the apartment above the store. Facing extreme conditions, she searched for children she knew would be in danger. Making two separate trips, she saved all four children. The fire department confined the fire to the store and praised the girl for her bravery.
BUFFALO, NY: MAY 15, 1913 – A spectacular fire on the waterfront caused $500,000 in damage as buildings, train cars and grain were destroyed. The Erie Elevator, filled with wheat, corn and other grains, was burned. The Erie Railroad’s freight sheds were also damaged. The flames leaped across Buffalo Creek to a railroad trestle. A firefighting tugboat quickly extinguished this fire. While the elevator was burning, thousands of bushels of grain released from the bins poured down in a blazing stream. This, coupled with the extreme radiant heat, made it almost impossible for firemen to approach the seat of the blaze. Twenty-eight engines laid 30,000 feet of hose and three fireboats were used to control the fire.
BROOKLYN, NY: MAY 19, 1913 – Large crowds of people were drawn to the sight of a huge fire at the Crooke Lead Works, part of the National Lead Co. The plant, on a section of meadow land called Mill Island, caught fire around 8 P.M. while 10 workers toiled inside. The fire broke out in the solder room, where workers attempted to battle the flames themselves. Finally driven back by the heat, they fled the building. A policeman saw the fire from a distance and placed the alarm. Firemen were now faced with flames pouring from four large one-story buildings and two two-story office buildings. This fire was said to be the largest ever answered by one alarm in Brooklyn.
ASTORIA, NY: MAY 21, 1913 – Two workers fell 155 feet after a guy wire snapped at the arch of the Astoria Viaduct under construction in this section of Queens. The men were working with concrete when the construction accident occurred, toppling a huge section of the wall being constructed with them on top of it. The section fell inside the huge hollow space and dropped 155 feet to the earthen floor below. Firemen arrived and immediately laddered the damaged tower. Several firemen and a doctor made their way down to the injured men. Using boards nailed together, they improvised stretchers to remove the injured men. Ropes were tied to the boards and the men were hauled up to safety one at a time.
GHENT, BELGIUM: MAY 25, 1913 – Fire destroyed the Indio-China pavilion and two restaurants at the Exposition Universelle et Internationale (International Industrial Exhibition), a world’s fair held from April 6 until October. Firefighters had a difficult time, but were successful in stopping the flames from extending to the neighboring British and Beaux Arts exhibits.