Rekindles: May 2001

May 1, 1901: SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico

May 2, 1901: ORANGE, NJ - A man was convicted of interfering with firemen as they attempted to extinguish a fire in a hospital. Chief James Hodgkinson testified that the man blocked his way with a knife and would not allow him and his men to do their duty. The chief then stated he ordered two firemen to disarm the man and then told a policeman to arrest him.

May 4, 1901: NEW YORK CITY - A fire started on the top floor of 217 W. 57th St., the home of the Fine Arts Society. Fire trucks rolling up to the scene were met by numerous carriages transporting scores of elegantly dressed people arriving for a fancy dress ball. Rubber-coated firemen dragged hoses among tuxedoed men, women in evening gowns and dancers in colorful costumes. The fire consumed the fifth floor of the building, but firemen were able to remove many valuable oil paintings and other pieces of artwork to safety.

May 5, 1901: CHICAGO - Seven people were killed and many others were injured as a fire destroyed a three-story apartment building on Marquette Avenue in South Chicago. Firemen were delayed by a freight train that blocked their response across tracks. Firemen ordered the train moved, but the crew refused. The police were sent for, the train was then moved and the crew was promptly arrested. The delay allowed the fire to gain tremendous headway and firemen could do little with the fully involved structure. A father would not allow firemen to remove his burned daughter to a hospital on religious grounds. The child was picked up by firemen and forcibly taken from the man, who clung to her severely burned arm until he was wrestled to the ground. Police later stopped a crowd of people as they tried to lynch the father.

May 9, 1901: OTTAWA, Ontario - Three men perished as a fire swept through a block of wooden buildings. Tenements, a boarding house and a hotel were quickly ablaze. The ruins were then meticulously searched, as more victims were feared lost to the flames.

May 9, 1901: ALBANY, NY - A defective gas jet caused a fire in the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, one the city's largest churches. Three firemen were injured, one critically, when the ceiling of the Sunday school section of the building collapsed onto them.

May 12, 1901: DELRAY, MI - Flames from a fire that originated in the roof of a lumber mill were driven along the Rouge River waterfront by 35-mph winds. Mutual aid was called from Detroit as firemen attempted to cut off the spread of the flames. Several lumberyards a distance away were ignited by flying brands and embers carried by the wind.

Time Capsule


A fire that apparently started in electrical wiring in a small factory grew into a conflagration that burned for over 10 hours. More than 140 blocks of commercial and residential buildings were involved.

A strong wind drove the flames from building to building as firemen struggled to keep up with the rapidly growing fire front. In an attempt to create a firebreak several buildings were blown up by firemen using dynamite. This tactic had little or no effect on the fire.

Firemen were suddenly confronted with numerous structures bursting into flames simultaneously. Entire blocks were burning out of control. The flames cut a swath of destruction 13 blocks wide and two miles long.

The streets filled with people trying to remove their belongings from the fire's path. Every available wagon in the city was pressed into service as streams of valuables were moved to safe areas.

The chief of the fire department was severely injured fighting the fire, which showed no preference for rich or poor. Expensive hotels, mansions, government buildings, middle-class homes and wooden shacks all fed the flames. More than 10,000 people were left homeless.

Compiled by Paul Hashagen