Rekindles: December 2001

Dec. 2, 1901: SANDY HOOK, NJ

Dec. 2, 1901: BALTIMORE - Flames swept through the top floor of the huge iron and stone department store at the corner of Howard and Lexington Streets. Firemen struggled to contain the fire and prevent water damage to the five floors of goods below.

Dec. 3, 1901: STATEN ISLAND, NY - A major fire broke out in the huge plaster mills at New Brighton. The main building, a five-story brick structure, quickly filled with flames and the fire threatened to spread to other buildings. Arriving firemen were faced with numerous men trapped at upper-floor windows, with several jumping as the fire trucks arrived. Firemen raced to the building with scaling ladders and made spectacular rescues. Three fireboats from Manhattan responded and helped to supply water. Lines were placed to protect several severely exposed private dwellings.

Dec. 4, 1901: MANHATTAN - A fire broke out on the top floor of a six-story factory building on Hester Street during the evening. As the cry of "Fire!" spread among the more than 300 workers, they all rushed for the fire escapes and stairways, completely blocking them. Arriving firemen had to force their way into the building and several were knocked over and trampled by the fleeing workers. The fire quickly made its way to the roof and soon threatened several exposures. Firemen stretched five hoselines and brought the fire under control.

Dec. 5, 1901: DES MOINES, IA - Fire was discovered during the early-evening hours in the plant of the National Starch Manufacturing Company. A poor water supply greatly hampered the firemen as they struggled to halt the extending body of fire. The fire was halted before it spread to a nearby grain elevator.

Dec. 6, 1901: WILKES-BARRE, PA - A spark from a broken electrical wire started a fire that consumed the Langfeld Brothers dry goods store. Firemen were unable to stop the fire as it spread to the adjoining clothing stores. Damage to the three businesses was estimated at more than $135,000.

Dec. 6, 1901: CARNEGIE, PA - Flames roared through a two-story wood-frame building that housed a grocery store on the ground floor with the grocer and his family living above. Cut off by the flames, the grocer gathered his family and they made their way to a window some 20 feet from the ground. One by one, the father dropped six children as the flames closed in. The mother left the window and crawled back into the smoke and heat in an attempt to reach the last child who was trapped by the fire. Flames overtook the woman, who was found later at her daughter's side.

Dec. 6, 1901: PASSAIC, NJ - A young woman on her way home was attacked by a man as she passed through a poorly lit area. The woman broke free from the man and dash to a fire alarm box with the man in hot pursuit. She pulled the alarm and within minutes, two engines, a ladder truck and a chemical engine were racing to the scene. The arriving firemen scared off the would-be attacker, who fled into the darkness of several abandoned warehouses.

Dec. 11, 1901: WOOSTER, OH - Fire of unknown origin destroyed the main building of the University of Wooster. The 30-year-old, six-story building was quickly filled with flames apparently started by a chemical explosion in a school laboratory. A lack of adequate water pressure left firemen unable to stop the advancing fire.

Dec. 15, 1901: BROOKLYN, NY - Firemen pushed into a smoke-filled barrel factory searching for the seat of the fire. As hoselines were dragged in and truckmen searched, a tremendous backdraft occurred. Firemen were thrown to the floor, many with serious burns. One by one the injured firemen staggered to the street and collapsed. In all, 16 firemen and officers were injured.

Time Capsule


A week after leading his men on a valiant four-hour battle to save burning homes along Long Island Sound, 49-year-old Assistant Chief Michael J. Mullen passed away. The chief had responded with his companies the week prior to the burning Rich Brothers Resort House. The response was so great a distance that the units had to stop and rest the horses at one point.

Arriving at the scene, they were faced with the entire second floor of the structure filled with flames. With no hydrants available, the chief ordered his men to draft from a nearby pond. A powerful stream was started only to be stopped as mud was pulled up into the pumps. The chief then resorted to an old-fashioned bucket brigade to protect the exposures. Mullen raced along the line encouraging his men as they battled the flames and thick smoke. Their efforts paid off as the spread of the fire was finally stopped.

Soon after the blaze, Mullen took sick. He passed away seven days later. He became the third member of the Stamford Fire Department to die in the line of duty.

(Thanks to Firefighter Joe Lombardo, Stamford Engine 5.)

Paul Hashagen, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is an FDNY firefighter assigned to Rescue Company 1 in Manhattan. He is also an ex-chief of the Freeport, NY, Fire Department. Hashagen is the author of FDNY 1865-2000: Millennium Book, a recently published history of the New York City Fire Department, and other fire service history books.