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BINGHAMTON, NY: MARCH 1, 1914 – A fire broke out in the cellar of a four-story hardware store and spread to the State Armory, where thousands of rounds of shotgun and rifle ammunition were stored. A terrible fusillade of fire scattered the crowd and endangered firemen battling the blaze. The extending fire also ignited a furniture building and the Binghamton Light, Heat & Power Building, plunging a section of the city into darkness. It took firemen 2½ hours to control the fire.
NEW YORK CITY: MARCH 1, 1914 – Fumes from burning lychee nuts in the basement of a Mott Street tenement caused more than 5,000 Chinatown residents to flee their apartments and out into a snow storm. In the smoke-filled basement, the stored nuts were burning like coals and causing noxious fumes. Smoke-helmeted firemen under the direction of Assistant Chief Joseph B. “Smokey Joe” Martin removed the nuts to the street. As the fire trucks pulled away, a crowd of children descended on the undamaged nuts.
BOSTON, MA: MARCH 5, 1914 – A fire started on the top floor of the Quincy House hotel and quickly involved the top floors. The elevator boy, John McKay, was credited with saving numerous sleeping guests as he went room to room and braved three trips up and down with his elevator car despite heavy smoke and flaming embers dropping down the shaft and into his car. He also found a blind man nearly overcome and wandering a hallway. At least one man died of smoke inhalation.
NEW YORK CITY: MARCH 9, 1914 – A leaking water main undermined a six-inch gas main, setting off three powerful gas explosions that tore open the streets at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The first blast, at about 8 A.M., broke scores of windows and other water mains, flooded a new subway tunnel and ruptured sewer lines. The FDNY sent six of its most powerful pumpers to the scene to try to control the water rushing from a broken 48-inch main. Flames were shooting through the damaged roadway and numerous people walking in the area (one of the busiest sections of the city) were injured by flying debris and glass as the first fire trucks arrived. Moments later, Chief John Kenlon arrived as a second and more powerful blast tore a huge crater in the street and spun the chief’s car in a circle almost catapulting him and his driver. A third big explosion occurred at about 12:30 P.M., but due to crowd control in the area, that blast caused few injuries.
ST. LOUIS, MO: MARCH 9, 1914 – Thirty men lost their lives when flames swept the seven-story Missouri Athletic Club during an early-morning fire. Many guests escaped down the red-hot fire escapes, but most people on the upper floors were trapped by smoke and flames. As the first units rolled in, flames were pouring out the roof and all the windows above the second floor. People were jumping from flame-filled windows onto the roofs of adjoining buildings. Several spectacular ladder rescues were made as the fire intensified and thousands of people gathered to watch the spectacle. The building was left a smoldering ruin after a 16-hour battle.
PORTLAND, OR: MARCH 12, 1914 – The waterfront suffered a serious fire when two huge grain docks filled with wheat were destroyed. The flames spread to two large vessels moored at the docks. One of the vessels, the steamer Cricket, filled with 4,000 barrels of asphalt, was cut adrift and burned to the water’s edge. The three-story New Ferry Hotel was badly damaged, but all 50 of its guests escaped unharmed.
MOUNT AIRY, MD: MARCH 25, 1914 – A fire that began in the boiler room of the Farmers’ Grain and Milling Co. at 11:45 A.M. spread with amazing speed. With no water supply available, the business district was doomed. As the fire leaped from building to building, a call was sent to Frederick for help and the Independent and United fire companies responded the 18-mile distance without delay. A strong wind was helping hold back the spreading wall of flames. In all, 10 buildings were destroyed, including a bank, two mills, two grocery stores and a large ice plant. Other commercial buildings sustained damage. n