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Aug. 1, 1905: TORONTO - As the motor launch I'll See left the Taylor & Green wharf, an explosion was followed by a sheet of flames that suddenly burst from a leaking gasoline tank. The ship carried 25 passengers, mostly women and children, who were quickly in a panic. Several women fainted as others jumped over the side. Two crewmembers burned by the blast staggered to the deck and onlookers started rescue work as the firefighting equipment of the Rathburn Company was pressed into service. Island launches and skiffs descended on the burning craft and the people in the water. The fire was extinguished and all hands were rescued.
Aug. 3, 1905: MINGO HOLLOW, NY - The nitroglycerine house of the Nitro-Powder Company caught fire during the early afternoon. The contents exploded, leveling the structure. Workers fled the building as the fire began and called the fire department. As flames spread toward another storehouse filled with explosives, a bucket brigade was quickly formed and the fire was halted before it could reach several tons of dynamite.
Aug. 3, 1905: JERSEY CITY, NJ - A fire believed to have started in a quantity of oakum (hemp or jute fibers, soaked in tar, and used to seal the gaps in a wooden ship's hull) stored on a dry dock occurred at the foot of Essex Street shortly before 6 P.M. The flames spread quickly to sheds, piles of timber and the company's offices. The FDNY fireboat New Yorker, at an adjacent pier for repairs, joined Jersey City firemen as the fire attack began. The flames were halted as they spread toward an iron foundry.
Aug. 4, 1905: BROOKLYN, NY - An "explosive" arson threatened the lives of 20 people in the three-story double-tenement at 643 Lorimer St. in the Williamsburg section. The blaze, apparently ignited by a high explosive that destroyed the interior stairs, trapped the building's occupants in thick, suffocating smoke. Several tenants jumped before firemen could begin their rescue operations. Firemen used ground and scaling ladders to make the rescues.
Aug. 4, 1905: GREENWICH, CT - Several women, noted members of "high society," joined forces with local firefighters at Round Hill after a fire broke out in a stable and quickly spread to adjoining structures. The horses were led to safety as the women raced to call neighbors and then pumped furiously from water pumps to supply a bucket brigade. The flames were stopped before they could spread to the house and automobile garage.
Aug. 13, 1905: NEW YORK CITY - While crossing Third Avenue and 13th Street in answer to what turned out to be a false alarm, Ladder Company 3 was struck by a trolley car. Several firemen were thrown from the apparatus. One of them, Fireman William Dayton, was pinned against a steel elevated railway pillar. Firemen, with the help of 50 civilians, pulled the truck, freeing the trapped man who then died from his injuries. The motorman and conductor were arrested. The false-alarmist was also apprehended.
Aug. 26, 1905: MARANACOOK, ME - During the early morning, three people were killed and four others seriously injured by a fire in the Maranacook Hotel. More than 80 guests were sleeping when the night clerk, Robert Boutwell, noticed the fire and risked his life by waking scores of unaware guests. Boutwell raced from room to room, with the fire burning his neck, face and hands, in his life-saving alarm. Numerous people were forced to jump from the top floor of the three-story wooden structure as fire closed in.
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.