Falling Wall Damages Three Pieces of Apparatus. Five Alarms Sounded for All-Day Dangerous Fire

A Staff Report*

TWENTY-ONE firemen and two policemen were injured, five of the firemen seriously, in a five-alarm fire that destroyed a three-section four-story old brick warehouse on the Erie Basin waterfront on Jan. 15th, last.

New TV sets reportedly worth $2 million were destroyed. The total property damage was estimated at $3 million. Forty pieces of fire apparatus and two fireboats and a Coast Guard cutter fought to prevent the stubborn fire from extending to other structures in the high hazard area. In the all-day struggle they were successful, but in the operation a falling wall badly damaged Ladders 101 and 131, and Engine 203, and injured members of their crews.

The three-section warehouse, which occupies an entire block between Buttermilk Channel and Summit street at Imlay street, was built during the Civil War and used as an ammunition depot. It was owned by the New York Dock Co. and leased to Molkor Warehouse Corp., to store television sets and parts for CBS-Columbia. It is reported between 3,800 and 4,000 black-and-white sets and about 8,000 cabinets packed in cardboard cartons were destroyed.

The fire was discovered by workmen in the warehouse at 209 Commercial Wharf, who were unloading a freight car. One pulled Box 1379 and the crew of Engine 203 on Imlay street could see dense smoke and flames shooting out of both sides of the warehouse all the way across Imlay street as they rolled in.

Adjoining sections at 208 and 207 Commercial Wharf were quickly ignited. The blaze spread a heavy blanket of smoke over the Brooklyn waterfront and some smoke entered the ventilators of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, slowing traffic.

Heavy streams from fireboats as well as front deck pipes and ladders were directed on the fire from all sides. Several lines were operated from an adjacent ammunition-case factory, the Knight Electric Products Co., but it was mid-afternoon before the threat of further extension was averted.

In order to permit passage of fireboats and remove threats to spread among the craft in the Basin, a Navy Transport was hastily towed away from the wharf.

*The editors extend appreciation for material upon which this report is based to members of the New York Fire Department, particularly the Brookyln Fire Alarm Office, and to Wm, Jerome Daly.

In the meantime, firemen erected an aerial ladder against the rear wall of the warehouse in which the fire started. Several firemen were on the ladder when an explosion shook the structure and the wall began to crumble. The ladder was badly damaged, and the men on it were burled into Imlay street. Others were partially buried by the debris that caseaded into the street. All were quickly dug out by their comrades and the seriously hurt were rushed to hospitals. Two who were on the ladder were Carmine Izzillo, Eng. 202, and Francis Brunner, Eng. 203. Acting Batt. Chief Percy Tweedale of the 48th Battalion, Captain William Neilan of Eng. 203 and Fireman Malachy J. Morris of the 48th Battalion were removed to hospitals with serious injuries. Three firemen of Eng. 203, Carry Marra, Charles Bernius and Thomas Roarke. themselves hurt by the falling wall, helped pull two superior officers out of the debris.

Smoky, stubborn fire in Erie Basin high hazard area caused injuries to 21 firemen, badly damaged three pieces of fire apparatus. Transport in picture was moved to clear way for fire department fireboats.Engine 57, the Fire Fighter, the nation's most powerful fireboat, directs water barrage on burning Brookyn warehouses at a fire which raged out of control for hours.

The cause of the fire was not determined. Chief Fire Marshal Martin Scott said it might have been caused by a kerosene stove or by a carelessly discarded cigarette.

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21 Firemen Hurt in Brooklyn Warehouse Fire

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Fire Chief Peter Loftus was in charge of fire fighting operations. Edward F. Cavanagh, Jr., also was present.

Response assignments for this fire were as follows:

1st Alarm—Box 1379 at 10:30 A.M.; Summit and Commercial; (also four telephone calls).

Eng. 202-203-204-57 (Boat); Lad. 101131; Div. 10 (Connelly); Batt. 32-48 (A. B. Chs. Neilan and Tweedale), Borough Chief Daniel Deasy.

Second alarm was skipped. Third Alarm at 10:44 A.M.—33-1379—Chief Peter Loftus and Thomas O’Brien.

(Second alarm assignment)—Eng. 279-224-239-77-(Boat); Res. 2; Lad. 110; Wat. Tow. 6. Change locations; Eng. 278/202—256/204—205/224; Lad. 119/110 —105/131.

Third alarm—Eng. 207-226-220-269223 (Boat); Lad. 122; Batt. 40; Fuel 14. Fifth alarm at 10:59 A.M.—55-1379— Eng. 228-280-235-211-10; Lad. 15. Changing location: Eng. 247/228—234/280— 252/235—221/211.

4:01 P.M. Signal 9-1379-22 (Searchlight).

4:28 P.M. Signal 9-1379-23 (Searchlight from the Bronx).

Several other boxes were pulled during the course of the fire. Fire alarm crew (Brooklyn Fire Alarm Office) were Supervising Eng. Jordan in charge, also Messrs. Kostka, Allen, Heitowit, Clark, McFeeley and Lawrence. Telephone: Poppert.

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