AN EPIDEMIC OF CONFLAGRATIONS.
Millions Gone Up In Smoke.
PATERSON THE LATEST VICTIM.
The year 1902, so far as it has gone, has proved itself a receord-breaker in the line of great fires, and the past fortnight has been no exception to the rule. The Sabbath rest has twice running been rudely broken first by the Waterbury conflagration on February 2 and then by that at Paterson, N. J., on February 9, the property loss on that occasion being added to by the $600,000 blaze at Jersey City, N. J., when two steamships piers were destroyed, and for a time it seemed as if a second Hoboken disaster were threatened. This was immediately preceded by last Saturday night’s destructive blaze, which not only wiped out much valuable property, but also inflicted fatal injuries on two firemen, very grave injuries on three more, and serious hurt on two or three more.
At the Paterson conflagration, the flames, as the accompanying plan shows, swept through a large portion of the business part of the city, and likewise destroyed scores of residences besides five churches, the new $400,000 city hall, the old city hall, the Public library, the High school and a public school, five banks, and financial institutions, four clubs, seven large office buildings, two newspaper offices, the police and one fire station, a threatre the United States and the Old Franklin hotels, both city landmarks, two telegraph company buildings, and all the principal stores, and some 500 dwelling and apartment houses, rendering a thousand families homeless and throwing 20,000 persons temporarily out of employ. Although some ramshackle wooden tenement and other structures were burned, especially a nest of anarchists near the city hall, yet many of the handsomest residences shared the same fate. Fortunately, however, the big silk factories were spared, else the number of those thrown out of employ would have been enormously increased. Roughly speaking, twenty-five city blocks, covering 2.000 feet in length and varying from 400 to 800 feet in width, were burned, and these in the newest and best built sections of the city, and in many parts nothing but heaps of ashes show where costly buildings had stood.
The fire came at midnight and was checked only after a desperate fight that lasted until late in the afternoon. Every city and town within reach of Paterson sent firemen and apparatus to the relief of the threatened city, and it took the united efforts of them all to win the battle. A northerly gale gave the conflagration its impetus and carried its burning brands to kindle the blaze afresh at other points. The firemen made stand after stand before the wall of fire, but were repeatedly driven back, and when victory finally came to them they were begrimed and exhausted. Chief Stagg himself was lying on a sick bed. St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church, an intensely solid structure, although gutted and ruined, served to check the course of the flames in one direction and the use of dynamite in blowing up some houses performed the same service in another. As in the case of Waterbury, a few fireproof or slowburning buildings would have acted as stops and given the firemen a chance.
Paterson has a population of 105,000. It is sixteen miles from New York and is noted for its silk, iron and locomotive industries. Its fire department ranked as first class; new apparatus and appliances having been added from time to time as was deemed necessary. so that it was considered to be equipped equal to any other of its size in the country. John Stagg has been chief engineer for more than ten years and he has brought the department to its present state of efficiency. He is a very careful, conservative and intelligent director, hence his success in the management and discipline of his force. The equipment of the department consists of nine steamers; two chemical engines; two hook and ladder trucks; two combination chemical and hook and ladder trucks; one aerial truck; and ten hose wagons. There is always about 12,000 feet of good hose on hand and the fire pressure averages about forty pounds.
The fire in Jersey City on Sunday destroyed t-he freight station of the Lehigh Valley Railroad company, an immence corrugated two-story iron structure, whose proximity to the “Gap” or waterway separating it from Communipaw prevented the fire apparatus from reaching it by land, except by a detour of one and one-half mile, much of the road thereto lying over a network of tracks occupied by freight cars. Hence the main portion of the extinguishing work was done from the water front by firetugs and the fireboat New Yorker. The flames spread to the dry dock alongside and destroyed several craft lying there for the winter. The building was equipped last summer with an automatic fjre service which failed to work. The total IQSS was between $600,000 and $700,000.
The Brooklyn fire broke out just before midnight last Saturday in the wheelwright and truck factory of John Shadbolt a four-story brick building 1 to 13 Cumberland street and Flushing avenue. It spread rapidly and before the arrival of the fire department 18 horses in one of the wings had perished. Half an hour after the firemen came the walls fell, one of them crashing through a two-story tenement house adjoining the factory. The cupola fell forward, causing injuries pronounced fatal to Patrick Nevins, chief of the Brooklyn fire department’s bureau of construction and two firemen, all of whom had their skulls badly fractured; two others were picked up unconscious. Two dwellers in the tenement were also hurt by flying bricks, as was also Deputy Chief Duff of the borough’s fire department. At the fourth alarm Chief Croker came flying across from Manhattan in his automobile, accompanied by Captain Oswald, of engine company No. 33, of Manhattan. On the Flushing avenue side Oswald was struck on the head by a broken live electric wire and became unconscious from the shock. His scalp was terribly lacerated. Chief Croker barely escaped contact with the wire. By 2 o’clock a. m. the fire, which had threatened the Navy yard, and many adjacent tenements, was under control. The loss is set, down at $300,000 or $350,000, well insured. Engine no was completely buried under the wreckage, and had to be adandoned. The bursting of its boiler added to the confusion and excitement.
SOME BIG FIRES WITHIN SIXTY-FIVE YEARS.
Among the more destructive fires which have happened within the past sixty-five years may be mentioned: