Rekindles: June 1999

If a significant fire or other emergency occurred 100 years ago in your community, or if your fire department's 100th anniversary is coming up, please drop us a line for possible inclusion in "Rekindles" in an upcoming issue.

June 3, 1899: NEW YORK CITY - A naphtha explosion tore through a three-story commercial building on Third Avenue during the morning, quickly filling the first floor with flames. Three people escaped, including the owner of the business, whose coat was in flames. Arriving at the scene, firemen were confronted with fire from front to rear and a report that a woman might still be inside. Fireman William Clark, who just four months earlier had made a spectacular rescue at the Windsor Hotel fire, got on his hands and knees and tried to enter the wall of flames. His comrades were holding his coattails, begging him not to enter, when a plate-glass window was blown out by the flames. Clark was seriously cut on the leg by falling glass and was removed to Bellevue Hospital. The report of a woman trapped proved to be false.

June 4, 1899: BUFFALO, NY - A fire that originated in the Potter Wall Paper Co. on the corner of Washington and Scott streets spread to other companies within the structure. Firemen were faced with dense smoke as leather goods and rubber smoldered within a belt and shoe business.

June 7, 1899: AUGUSTA, GA - The careless handling of turpentine caused a fire in a drug store and quickly spread. Flames extended to a five-and-dime store, a musical instrument store, a grocer, a liquor store and an armory. The loss was more than $250,000.

June 8, 1899: LYONS, NY - An explosion of oil in a hardware store destroyed the building and spread to the exposures on both sides. One man was seriously burned by the exploding oil.

June 8, 1899: GRANITEVILLE, SD - The Nordinger-Charlton fireworks plant was rocked by an explosion rocked during the afternoon. Within five minutes of the explosion, 35 buildings were in flames. Numerous people were injured by the blast. Arriving firemen were startled to see a wagon filled with fireworks race past pulled by a team of terrified horses. The wagon bounced along behind the team with the burning contents sending up a shower of sparks, rockets and aerial bombs. The horses were found three hours later in the woods, still trembling in shock.

June 11, 1899: WOONSOCKET, RI - Stables owned by Warren Cook on Front Street caught fire, trapping many horses. Flames spread to a house and several adjoining buildings.

June 12, 1899: MARIETTA, OH - The factory of the Marietta Torpedo Co. was blown up when a porter dropped a container of nitroglycerine. Windows throughout the city were shattered and trees were stripped of their leaves for 300 yards. A huge crater smoldered where moments before a wagon, a team of horses and two men had been.

June 13, 1899: CHAMA, NM - The entire business section of the town was swept by fire during the evening. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad station and roundhouse and several blocks of buildings burned despite the efforts of the entire populace of the town to control the flames.

June 17, 1899: GREENSBORO, NC - Fire broke out on the fourth floor of the Ben Bow House and was soon beyond the capability of the local fire company. A telegram was sent to Winston Salem asking for additional fire companies. Arriving firemen were able to join forces and halt the spreading fire.

June 19, 1899: BROOKLYN, NY - A fire started in the basement of the Brighton Beach Hotel and filled the hotel with smoke, driving the many guests outside. Arriving engines had to stretch from hydrants some distance from the building, but were still able to quickly contain the blaze.

June 21, 1899: LIVERMORE FALLS, ME - An incendiary fire raced through a score of small wooden buildings that comprised the business section of the town. A fire the previous September had burned a half of the town's buildings to the ground; this fire took the other half.

June 26, 1899: TOLEDO, OH - The entire Michigan Central Railroad freight house was destroyed and the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad freight house was partially destroyed by fire. A strong wind fanned the flames and sent waves of burning embers across the city. Firemen, facing walls of flames, were able to save more than 100 rail cars. Numerous small buildings and rail cars were lost before the fire was controlled.



At 5:45 A.M., a fire was discovered on the first floor of the Crowel Building in Woonsocket, RI. Deputy Chief D.E. Stone transmitted a second alarm upon his arrival. By 6:30, the chief saw things were growing beyond his control and sent for assistance from Central Falls, Pawtucket and Providence, RI, and Worcester, MA. The fire had spread to two blocks when help started to arrive.

The attack was advanced from several points around the expanded fire area as units arrived and found sources of water. Fire was now burning in five large structures, several smaller commercial buildings and a furniture warehouse. The firemen from Worcester arrived after a 32-mile response. Mutual aid departments helped to surround the fire and contain it to one area.

Back at the original fire building Woonsocket firemen were still operating when a wall collapsed, burying eight men under piles of flaming debris and red-hot bricks. Brother firemen moved in quickly and began to dig with their bare hands to reach those trapped. The injured men were rushed to Woonsocket Hospital as the fire fight continued.

Sixty-five men manned 10 fire engines and battled the blaze for more than seven hours. The exhausted men were greatly relieved to hear that the eight firemen in the hospital would all recover from their injuries. Weary firemen then began to pack the more than 14,000 feet of hose with tired smiles on their grime-covered faces.

Paul Hashagen

Compiled by Paul Hashagen