100 Years Ago

FREEPORT, NY: June 2, 1908 - The town was aroused during the afternoon by the special fire signal for Freeport High School, which also houses the grammar and primary children. The townspeople hurried to the school in carriages and automobiles. Archie Wallace, the fire chief, was about to start an automobile ride with his wife, who was in the chauffeur's seat. She drove the car at racing speed to the engine house where Chief Wallace took charge of the engines. Together with the two hook & ladder trucks the department raced to the scene. Anxious parents found the entire school had promptly exited in under minutes and all one thousand children were safe outside as firemen attacked the fire in the cellar.


NEW YORK CITY: June 2, 1908 - Twenty people were asleep in a four-story building at 313 West 30th St. in Manhattan when the cry of fire shattered the night. Firemen placed ladders to the front windows and rescued a number of tenants as the basement fire filled the rooms above with thick smoke. Firemen at the rear begged a woman not to jump while several of their comrades went to the adjoining roof with a rope. The woman could not wait and jumped to her death. A second woman appeared at the same window and Captain Sweeney of Ladder 21 was lowered by rope by six of his men and was able rescue the woman.

WOODLAND, NY: June 5, 1908 - A night lamp in a second-floor guest room exploded and started a fire in the four-story Hotel Roxmor. Fifty guests asleep at the time were just able to escape as the flames tore through the building. Firemen could do little to save the year-old structure, which burned to the ground.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN: June 6, 1908 - The Prest-o Lite Co. plant, which stored gas in tanks, blew up at 9:40 A.M. Eleven people were injured by the explosion. St. Vincent's Hospital and an engine house of the fire department were also badly damaged by the blast. Of the injured, three were workers at the plant, two were city firemen, four were hospital employees and one was a patient there.

MOABIT, GERMANY: June 8, 1908 - Arsonists attempted to burn down the old St. Paulus Catholic Church while it was filled with worshipers. The congregation was in prayer when the priest saying Mass was informed of the fire. He walked down the middle aisle, asking everyone to calmly leave the church. They exited to find the entire roof of the church ablaze and firemen placing ladders to the roof. Firemen found several separate fires on the roof, but quickly extinguished the blaze.

PATCHOGUE, NY: June 12, 1908- A house was set on fire by the family's pet parrot. While the family was out, the parrot found a box of matches with which he set fire to the curtains. Homeowner John Troupiano, an insurance agent, was outside and was attracted by the bird's screeching. The home was saved, but the room and its contents were destroyed.

KANSAS CITY, MO: June 12, 1908- A worker in a cold-storage building lit a match that caused an explosion of sewer gas that severely damaged the building and started a fire. Before the fire could be extinguished, a second explosion, this one of leaking ammonia, caused an extremely stubborn fire condition. The fire spread to the adjoining smokehouse and this too was destroyed.

PROVIDENCE, RI: June 13, 1908 - A spark apparently flew into an open tank of oil, causing an explosion and fire in the engine room of the American & British Manufacturing Co. The factory, which made machinery and employed 500 people, was destroyed by the blaze.

ERIE, PA: June 20, 1908 - The buildings of the Keystone and the Booth Fish Companies' plants were destroyed during a late-night fire. Three tugs in the harbor also burned as did large quantities of nets and cork. One fireman was critically injured and others were hurt by a falling wall.

THREE RIVERS, ONTARIO: June 22, 1908 - Fanned by high winds, a fire that broke out in a stable consumed the greater portion of the lower town containing the business section. Special trains brought additional firemen from Montreal, Sherbrooke and Grand Mere. Destroyed were the post office, City Hall, every hotel, the bank and almost all the leading stores. In all, 300 buildings were left in ruins.

DULUTH, MN: June 26, 1908 - An afternoon fire caused by an explosion in the "D" elevator burned though the Consolidated Elevator Co. and No. 1 dock and sheds of the Northern Pacific Railroad Co. at Rice's Point. A dozen tugboats aided the fire department as the blaze threatened the entire bay front area. The fire was battled for more than two hours.

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.