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Aug. 4, 1903: VERONA, NJ - A blaze that started in the printing office in the rear of a grocery store spread to the large home next door, sending flames into the dark early-morning sky. With no local fire department, a call went out to neighboring Caldwell, but with difficulties in getting the message through, the Orange Fire Department was called in. When firemen arrived, they found the townspeople battling the blaze, now in four buildings, with a bucket brigade.
Aug. 4, 1903: BROOKLYN, NY - A four-alarm fire, caused by an exploding gasoline lamp, raced through a commercial building on North Sixth Street in Williamsburg and took the life of one worker. Trapped above the spreading fire was a carpenter from Hoboken who died as the flaming staircase collapsed into the cellar. As firemen plunged into the fire, the faces of three little children appeared at the upper story of the adjoining tenement. Fireman McKenna of Engine 115 rushed into the building and carried them to the street amid the cheers of the crowd watching the blaze.
Aug. 6, 1903: TRENTON, NJ - Two women were out for a spin along Calhoun Street in a new automobile. The front axle broke and the vehicle flipped over, throwing one woman clear and pinning the second. Two men raced to the scene, but were unable to lift the car as flames began to engulf the vehicle. A servant girl from a nearby home dashed from the house, grabbed a garden hose and held the flames at bay. The woman, only bruised and dazed, was then pulled free of the car.
Aug. 8, 1903: PHILADELPHIA - Four people were killed and about a dozen were critically injured when a section of ballpark grandstand collapsed. The National League ballpark was featuring two games between Philly and Boston and was filled with 10,000 fans. A fight broke out between two drunken men and drew its own crowd. As people moved in to get a better view of the brawl a walkway became overloaded and collapsed, plunging a 200-foot section to the sidewalk below. A general alarm was transmitted for all available ambulances and fire trucks. More than 125 spectators were injured.
Aug. 8, 1903: COEUR D'ALENE, ID - The entire town turned out to battle a blaze that raced though planing mills and lumberyards and extended toward a saw mill, threatening the town itself. Mutual aid was sent from Spokane, WA, to help reinforce the local department.
AUG. 13, 1903: SPECTACULAR MANHATTAN RESCUE
Eleven panic-stricken girls were trapped on the sixth floor of 210 Centre St. and were trying save themselves when firemen arrived. Fireman Brown of Engine 31 on Elm Street dashed into the building and headed for the sixth floor. Stopped by dense smoke and high heat, he moved toward the rear windows.
Seeing a woman trapped above, Brown climbed out onto the sill and lowered the windows, then climbed on top of the open window frames as he was being held from the inside. Above him the girl was frantic, forced halfway out the window by the tremendous heat. Brown reached his arm and shoulder up and grasped her hand and directed her to climb down. Using all his strength, Brown swung the girl down from her perch above and passed her into the window.
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.