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Feb. 2, 1899: COLUMBUS, OH - Fire broke out in the basement of the Dunlop Building in the heart of the business district. The flames rolled across the ceiling and began to shoot up an elevator shaft. Within moments, the fire was raging throughout the structure. Several alarms were sent in quick succession, bringing the entire fire department to the scene. Across an alley to the rear of the fire building was the High Street Theater, which was packed with people watching a show. The audience was evacuated by firemen fearing the extreme exposure problem presented by the raging fire. The audience swelled the already large crowd watching the firemen struggle to stop the fire as it leaped from building to building, burning exposures on both sides. A few hours after the fire began, the front and rear walls of the Dunlop Building collapsed, sending many firemen running for their lives. As the dust settled and a roll call was taken one man was missing and feared dead. A search was started amid the flaming rubble as exhausted firemen pressed on trying to find their brother.
Feb. 2, 1899: CHICAGO - A homeless man in search of a handout was pressed into service by a woman in need of a plumber because the pipes in her house had become frozen. The woman led the man into the cellar of the house on Star Avenue in hopes she could trade a meal for the thawing of her water pipes. As she was fixing some food, she smelled smoke and went to the cellar to investigate. The man was gone and a fire was blazing - started by the candle he had been using to thaw a frozen pipe. The woman dashed from the house for help. The fire department arrived and extinguished the fire, keeping damage to a minimum.
Feb. 2, 1899: MILWAUKEE - A fire started in an express car of a mail train traveling at a high speed near Brookfield Junction. A mail-train messenger made valiant attempts to extinguish the growing body of fire while the train was still traveling. The train was finally brought to a halt and members of the crew dragged the messenger, nearly unconscious from smoke inhalation, from the car. The messenger had saved many valuable items from the freight car, but the fire was blazing out of control. The train was backed up and returned to a junction, where a water tank was used to extinguish the fire.
Feb. 3, 1899: PHILADELPHIA - At 4 A.M., a fire broke out in the W.S. Cooper establishment on Thirteenth Street and spread quickly to exposures on both sides. Arriving firemen were greatly hampered by major excavations of the street in front of the fire building and those on either side. Firemen battled bravely and with quite a bit of ingenuity to stop the flames traveling from one building to the next. The fire was brought under control after two blocks of buildings had burned. Damage was estimated at $750,000.
Feb. 12, 1899: YANKTON, SD - An alarm was transmitted for a fire in a state insane asylum building that was being used as a laundry. Due to crowded conditions in the asylum 40 women were also housed in the laundry building. Arriving firemen were faced with a severe temperature of 23 degrees below zero, little available water and an advanced fire condition within the three-story building. Twelve attendants were also in the building during the blaze and had to be saved by firemen. Seventeen of the inmates perished in the fire; the others were removed safely.
Feb. 12-13, 1899: Major Snowstorm Cripples Country
A severe winter storm that extended from New England to the Gulf of Mexico and as far west as Oregon blanketed the country with cold weather and dangerous amounts of snowfall. The storm would go down in history as the most destructive since the blizzard of 1888.