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A Washington, DC, water tower races down F Street, circa 1914.
Photo credit: Library of Congress photo
ST. AUGUSTINE, FL: APRIL 2, 1914 – The oldest city in the U.S. faced a large and spreading nighttime fire that started in the Florida House hotel. Guests were hurried from their rooms as thick smoke filled the halls. Those who did not wake up quickly enough had to be rescued by firemen using ladders. Several people were forced to jump from second-floor windows. As the flames spread to other hotels, the National Guard was called out to keep the huge crowds back. Flames also swept through the Munson House, Clairmont Hotel, Central Hotel and Atlantic Hotel. The St. John’s County Court House and the Vedder House also burned, with the flames destroying many historic records of the city and its historical society. Two square blocks of the city burned to the ground, but no one was killed.
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND: APRIL 7, 1914 – A patrolling policeman spotted and reported a fire in a warehouse on Grundy Street. The warehouse filled with flames that seemed to defy the best efforts of the many streams of water being directed by the fire brigade. The fire soon spread to an adjoining warehouse and the battle widened. After several hours, both buildings collapsed. A number of firemen were caught in the collapse, but none were seriously injured. After the fire was brought under control, the body of Fireman Joseph Newark was found lying in the runoff water in the basement. He apparently was overcome by the smoke and fell from an upper floor into the basement. Newark left a wife and six children.
COLLINGSWOOD, NJ: APRIL 9, 1914 – While the owner of a home on White Horse Pike was building a fire in his fireplace, the weather outside had become volatile, as a large thunderstorm boomed overhead. While he was placing the last of the paper and kindling in the hearth, a bolt of lightning shot down the chimney igniting the paper and hickory logs and setting the floor on fire. The flash also shocked several of the family members. Firemen responded and quickly extinguished the fire.
ST. ANDREWS, NEW BRUNSWICK: APRIL 11, 1914 – Major restorations of The Algonquin, a 500-room summer hotel owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, were just being finished when a fire started on the shingled roof. A strong wind fanned the flames that were soon sweeping through the huge structure. With little firefighting apparatus available, the building was soon a mass of flames that left only the concrete walls standing. A nearby cottage was also consumed.
BRISTOL, RI: APRIL 13, 1914 – At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a fire in a workshop placed the America’s Cup sloop Resolute in great danger. The blaze was battled by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Co.’s own fire brigade. The firemen fought the fire, which broke out on the roof of the shops, with several streams of water from their apparatus. Winds were blowing the flames toward the famous boat, but the firemen extinguished the fire before it could be damaged.BOSTON, MA: APRIL 14, 1914 – A fire that roared through an apartment house at Commonwealth and Long avenues trapped a number of people as firemen arrived. Two women jumped from windows and were killed before ladders could be placed. Firemen then rescued the husband of one of the women and who was suffering severe burns. Several other people escaped using rope ladders. The building was destroyed.
New York City: April 17, 1914 – A fire that began in a pile of rubbish raced through a five-story theatrical rooming house at 741 Eighth Ave. in Manhattan. The flames ignited at the base of the stairs and swept upward. Numerous spectacular rescues were made, including one by Captain Thomas Smith of Engine 2. While directing a line being stretched to stop the fire from spreading to an exposure, Smith saw a man trapped at a window across a shaft five stories above the ground. Smith grabbed a stepladder and bridged it between the buildings. Straddling the windowsill with firemen holding his leg, Smith coaxed the man toward him. Reaching out as far as he could, Smith grabbed the man’s hand. Suddenly, the ladder broke and both men began to fall. They swung down, but Smith held fast, as did the firemen holding him. Slowly, they drew both men back to safety. Both were safe, but the captain’s knee was badly twisted. Sadly, 11 lives were lost as the flames ravaged the building. For his outstanding rescue, Smith was presented the James Gordon Bennett Medal, the FDNY’s top award.