Rekindles: August 1999

Aug. 3, 1899: GRODNO, Russia

Aug. 6, 1899: GLENS FALLS, NY - A late-afternoon fire at the Glens Falls Portland Cement Plant spread from building to building with great rapidity. The wooden structures, build five years earlier, burned like kindling and within an hour the entire plant was in ruins. Several hundred men were put out of work, a serious blow to the city's economy. The loss was about $250,000.

Aug. 7,1899: DETROIT - Three people were fatally burned by an explosion of kerosene in a kitchen. During that week, the city had seen four other kerosene-fed explosions in the same neighborhood that claimed four other lives. Low-grade kerosene, with a low flash point, might have been to blame.

Aug. 7, 1899: WABASH, IN - The gas works of the Logansport and Wabash Valley Gas Company were destroyed by a terrific explosion that shook the city at about 5 P.M. The superintendent and his assistant had just finished charging the tanks with calcium carbide and water, from which acetylene gas is manufactured, when an ominous bubbling began in one of the tanks. The assistant shut off the water to the tank, when suddenly there was a column of flame 80 feet high that lifted the roof off the structure. Plate-glass windows in that section of town were all blown out. The assistant was injured.

Aug. 8, 1899: ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - The city's new garbage incinerator, recently finished, caught fire at noon and was soon burning out of control. Arriving firemen were completely helpless to battle the flames, as the structure was built far out into meadowlands and no water source was available.

Aug. 17, 1899: JAMESTOWN, NY - A cane-seat-chair factory on Taylor Street caught fire at just after 6 P.M. and soon spread to a nearby livery stable, an axe factory and a flour mill. Radiant heat ignited two homes across the street from the fire building. Three firemen were injured battling the blaze, which wiped out a number of businesses.

Aug. 19, 1899: JERSEY CITY, NJ - Flames broke out in a two-story wood-frame building at 537 Jersey Ave. The fire, believed to have started in a grocery store, produced thick smoke and high heat. First-arriving Engine Company 6, under the command of Captain John Watt, entered the building and pushed a line toward the seat of the fire. The captain began to suffer from the heavy smoke and made his way outside, only to collapse in the street. He was rushed to a hospital, but died a short time later.

Aug. 21, 1899: NEW YORK CITY - A fire started in the sub-cellar of 37 Cortland St., which was occupied as a seed store. Arriving firemen moved hoselines down into the wall of smoke. A second alarm was transmitted as firemen began to go down in the thick smoke. Twelve men were dragged out by their brother firemen, and two of them were rushed to a hospital. It was later discovered that broken pipes had leaked gas that mixed with the smoke. The blaze was battled for two hours.

Aug. 25, 1899: Elizabeth, NJ - An evening fire did considerable damage to B.F. Strauss' wagon factory on South Spring Street. The paint shop and finishing rooms on the upper floor were destroyed, together with a number of wagons and carriages about ready for delivery. Protection Engine Company members laid their hose in first, but as soon as the water was turned on, the hose burst in several places. Engine 3 was wheeled into the yard and began throwing water on the blazing building, but the flames had a head start.

Aug. 26, 1899: CHICAGO - Captain John Evans of Company 13 received a 500-volt charge of electricity, and amazingly lived to tell about it. The captain was leading a squad of men up a staircase at 192 Lake St., down which was pouring a flood of water. Unknown to them a fire had burned through the floor and a wire from the elevator's dynamo had fallen across the stairs. The captain's aluminum helmet came in contact with the wire and he was thrown down the steps. His only injury was a sprained knee.

Aug. 28, 1899: SPARKILL, NY - A fire broke out at about 1 P.M. in the St. Agnes Convent and Orphanage and soon jumped from building to building in the complex. The more than 400 people who lived in the structures fled into the night. Four children were killed, seven seriously injured and more than 25 other people were injured by the fast-moving fire. Firemen credited several nuns with heroic rescues of trapped children. One small boy also saved two babies from certain death by his brave actions.

Centennial Celebrations:

The Jonesboro, AR, Fire Department celebrates its 100th anniversary Aug. 13-15, 1999…The Mount Pleasant, PA, Volunteer Fire Department marks its centennial in August 1999. The department was chartered by the Borough of Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, in August 1899.

Time Capsule

Aug. 22, 1899: Fast-Moving Flames Rip Colorado Town

Fire swept through the business district of Victor, CO, near Cripple Creek, with a loss of more than $2 million. Shortly after noon, flames broke out in the Merchant's Cafe adjoining the Bank of Victor. A strong south wind drove the flames and within a few minutes all the surrounding houses were burning.

A call for help was sent to Cripple Creek, but in the meantime the fire was spreading quickly from one pine wood building to another. Dynamite was used in an attempt to create a fire break, and for hours the hills were filled with heavy smoke and the sound of the explosions. Unfortunately, this did little to slow the fire.

The fire burned the bank, the post office, and a row of blocks between Third and Fourth streets to the north taking another bank and the Western Union office. Fire soon filled the telephone company building, a hotel and several shaft buildings of the Gold Coin Mining Company.

Men, women and children fled before the fast-moving fire, as the train station burst into flames. Fire apparatus was rushed to the scene by a special train, but firemen could do little to stop the wind-blown conflagration, although they did keep the fire from spreading to the residential section of town. Ten thousand people lived in this area, but the business district was virtually in ruins.

Paul Hashagen

Compiled by Paul Hashagen