Rekindles: November 1998

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

Nov. 4, 1898: WEEHAWKEN, NJ - The Eldorado Casino, a concert hall, bar and billiard parlor, was a family-owned and operated business with the family's residence on the second floor. With the father out of town on business, the mother and her seven children went to bed early. At 3 A.M., the crying of her 13-month-old baby woke the mother who found the apartment filling with smoke and the hallway filling with flames. She aroused the six still-sleeping children and led them to a scuttle ladder and one by one she, with the help of two older children, moved her younger family to the roof. They then repeated their assent through another scuttle and joined neighbors in an adjacent building. The fire department arrived, but could do little to save the large two-story wood-frame building now was burning furiously.

Nov. 5, 1898: DETROIT - Shortly before 2. P.M., more that 35 workers were busy erecting the new Wonderland Theater building when a sudden collapse occurred. Nearly the entire work force plummeted into the excavation pit below and then was showered with steel girders, planks, timbers, bricks and other construction debris. The fire department was on-scene in minutes and began the laborious and dangerous task of rescuing the living and recovering the dead. Excellent progress was being made until a secondary collapse occurred at about 5 P.M. With the situation extreme and all the living rescued, the fire chief and mayor conferred and put a halt to the recovery operation until the next day. Ten were known to be dead with five more missing and presumed lost.

Nov. 6, 1898: WASHINGTON, DC - An explosion and fire at 5 P.M. wrecked the Supreme Court room and adjacent rooms in the main floor of the Capital. The explosion was apparently caused by the leaking of a four-inch gas main that found a source of ignition. Flames then swept through the area destroying valuable artwork, a law library and court records. Fire raced up an elevator shaft and extended into the office of Justice Wright. District firemen effected a quick and efficient job of containing the blaze.

Nov. 7, 1898: DAWSON, AK - An oil lamp thrown by one woman at another during an argument started a blaze in the Green Tea Tavern that was soon spreading out of control. A breeze pressed the flames into the new Post Office and then to the buildings beyond. The fire engine and more than 2,000 men went to work trying to halt the wall of flames. The fire was finally stopped but not until 40 structures were left in ruins.

Nov. 23, 1898: SAN FRANCISCO - A blaze tore through the landmark Baldwin Hotel during the early-morning hours. More than 300 guests were asleep in the hotel when the fire broke out. Firemen were aided in their rescues by a number of messenger boys employed in an adjoining office building. The lads swarmed through the smoke-filled building waking guests and guiding them to safety. Five people saved themselves by sliding down a rope more than 100 feet to the ground. The sixth person to try the rope as an escape was killed as the rope parted shortly after he started down. At least four people lost their lives during the fire.

Nov. 24, 1898: CHICAGO - Flames poured from the Wrisley Soap Works on Fourth Avenue during the evening hours. Arriving firemen were hampered in their efforts to extinguish the oil and inflammable fed blaze. They turned their efforts to containing the blaze and were able to hold it to the original fire building.



On Nov. 14, a fire started in a laboratory on the fifth floor of the Universite de Montreal. A watchman discovered the blaze and went to notify the superintendent of the school. Residents of a nearby building called the fire department after seeing the flames.

The first chief transmitted a second alarm upon his arrival. Chief of Department Chevalier soon arrived and transmitted a third alarm. Firemen moving in hoselines were driven back several times as they pushed towards the seat of the blaze. For three hours, 185 men operating eight pumpers and a water tower battled the fire until it was declared under control. Several firemen were injured by falling glass.

A fire broke out after an explosion tore through the top floor of Saint Boniface College at St. Boniface, Manitoba. The early efforts to awaken and remove the more than 350 students caused a delay in notifying the firemen.

When the first engine did arrive, its crew was faced with an advanced fire situation with many students trapped. The entire upper portion of the four-story building was a sheet of flames, firemen swarmed up their ladders and made numerous rescues. Students were also rescuing each other from the advancing flames and dense smoke.

Ten lives were lost in the fire as were many priceless historical documents, a large library, a laboratory, a seismograph and numerous other valuable objects.

Paul Hashagen

Compiled by Paul Hashagen