Rekindles: April 2006

NEW YORK CITY: April 1, 1906 – During a difficult fire operation inside one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, several firemen were overcome by the thick smoke. They were carried out unconscious and placed on the sidewalk. As other firemen tended their comrades, a police officer summoned several ambulances and without asking the fire chief attempted to place one of the men on an ambulance. Chief of Department Croker flew into a rage, barking at the policemen, doctors and firemen alike. “Clear out the place. Put all the cops out!†Both sides squared off, seconds away from a brawl. Calmer heads prevailed and the man eventually was taken to the hospital. Bad feelings between the police and firemen continued for many years.

CHATTANOOGA, TN: April 1, 1906 – During the early-morning hours, arsonists attempted to burn the home of the Rev. Howard Jones, pastor of the First Baptist Church. Since delivering a strong sermon denouncing the lynching of a local man a week earlier, Doctor Jones was receiving threatening letters every day. The arson attempt was unsuccessful.

EAST ORANGE, NJ: April 3, 1906 – The Wilcox family of 12 Mitchell Place declared their Maltese cat “Simpkins†saved them from death as their house caught fire. The cat had been locked in the kitchen where a fire broke out. The cat dashed through a section of the burned-away door, then dashed to the window of his owner and began clawing violently at the screen and window frame, waking the family.

NAGOLD, GERMANY: April 5, 1906 – Firefighters were faced with a difficult rescue operation as a large hotel collapsed, trapping numerous guests. The Black Forest Hotel had just been renovated and after a big party the guests went to bed. The collapse took the lives of more than 50 people and injured 70.

NEW YORK CITY: April 8, 1906 – Veteran volunteer firemen stood in tears as the historic firehouse at Chambers and Centre streets in Manhattan was torn down. The firehouse had housed several famous volunteer companies and was also the place from which the new paid department first responded.

WOODHAVEN, NY: April 8, 1906 – Members of the Jones Hook and Ladder Company in Queens filed suit against the City of New York to reimburse them for $139.60 they spent to feed the horses the city provided to pull their fire truck. The city made no provision to care for the animals, so the firemen were paying for food from their own pockets. Other companies were considering similar actions.

THOMASVILLE, GA: April 12, 1906 – Firemen responded to a major fire involving a famous resort hotel, the Piney Woods. As they battled the wind-driven flames, embers rained across the town and ignited a fire in the southern portion known as Sandy Bottom. As the hotel fire was brought under control, three blocks of stores ignited and burned to the ground.

CHICAGO: April 14, 1906 – The cry of “Fire!†in a crowded church caused a stampede that trampled worshipers. When the music stopped and the pastor began his sermon, a young boy burst into the church and shouted the false alarm. He caused a panic that killed a woman and three children.

BOSTON: April 17, 1906 – South End firemen were surprised as a flaming auto raced through the streets and skidded to a halt before the engine house. The driver, seriously burned about the head and hands, had raced the blazing auto to the one place he knew could extinguish it. The car was a total loss.

SAN FRANCISCO: April 18, 1906 – Just after 5 A.M., an enormous earthquake shook northern California and began a series of events that would leave firefighters with a fire problem of historic proportions. In San Francisco alone, nearly five square miles of the city – more than 3,000 acres – were destroyed. Twenty-five thousand buildings were in ruins and more than 500 lives were lost, including Fire Chief Dennis Sullivan, who was critically injured during the earthquake and died four days later. Firemen fought blazes of conflagration proportions for several days. Serious fires were also fought in Santa Rosa and San Jose and several other communities. (See page 58 for a full account.)

MILESTONE: Cincinnatus Fire Dept. Marks 100th Anniversary

The Cincinnatus (Knickerbocker Engine Company), NY, Fire Department recently celebrated 100 years of service by hosting its annual dinner with over 240 guests present, including State Senator Jim Seward, State Assemblyman Gary Finch and U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, the guest speaker for the event.

The Cincinnatus Fire Department was founded in 1906 after a devastating fire in a milk plant. Because the town had no organized fire protection, the closest fire department put a steam engine on a train and arrived three hours later to find the plant a total ruin.

The all-volunteer department protects 300 square miles in Cortland and Chenango counties with two pumper-tankers, a pumper, a brush truck, two ambulances, a tanker, two four-wheelers, a rescue boat and a heavy rescue. The 134 members respond to 200 fire calls and 350 ambulance calls a year.

Many events are planned for 2006, including a partial renaming of the department, a new central station and acquisition of a new quint.

-Chief Derek Raimo

Paul Hashagen, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a retired FDNY firefighter who was assigned to Rescue Company 1 in Manhattan. He is also an ex-chief of the Freeport, NY, Fire Department. Hashagen is the author of FDNY 1865-2000: Millennium Book, a history of the New York City Fire Department, and other fire service history books.