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...


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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.)

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