Bladders as an Implement in Firing Buildings

Bladders as an Implement in Firing Buildings


To THE EDITOR—In looking over your magazine of June 19, 1912. on page 404 I read where in Albany, N. Y., a building formerly occupied by the House of Good Shepherd was set on fire by the use of hog or beef bladders filled with gasoline, but the authorities have been unable to connect any person with the crime. I have some information on the same line that may be of value to you. On May 8, 1912, at 9:20 p. m.. there was an alarm of fire from box 621 for a fire at 1013 H street N. E., Washington, D. C., The place was occupied as a barber shop and dwelling by Vincent Zappa. The lire originated in the barber shop, first floor, front room. No. 10 engine company. the first to arrive, encountered some difficulty in entering the building on account of the smoke and lire. The Haines were quickly subdued and confined to the barber shop. After the fire was extinguished in the barber shop, Battalion Chief Proctor, who was in charge, attempted to make his way to the second floor, and in passing through the adjoining room stumbled over an object on the floor at the foot of the stairs. Upon investigation it was found to be a pasteboard hat box covered with a burlap bag with a lighted candle tied at the top of the box. In attempting to remove the box the bottom fell out. exposing something soft to the firemen. Further examination disclosed eight hog bladders filled with a liquid that to them had the odor of ether. In the front room, where the fire originated, sixmore hog bladders were found. I received notice from Battalion Chief Proctor that I was wanted at the fire. I responded at once, and began an investigation. I had the bladders that were burned and the full bladders taken to Xo. 9 Police Station for safe keeping, and requested that the three largest ones be sent to the fire marshal’s office, which was done. I submitted a report to Chief Wagner, requesting that the chemist of the health department make an analysis of the contents of the bladders for the purpose of determining officially the nature of the contents. The official report of Dr. R. T. Lynch, the chem ist of the health department, revealed that the contents of the bladders contained petroleum benzine and ammonia water, the petroleum benzine being a highly volatile and inflammable substance. Vincent Zappa was arrested by Precinct Detective Smith and Sergeants Davis and McCormick. and held on a charge of arson. Zappa was tried in police court Friday, May 10, 1912, his case was sent to the Grand Jury, and he was placed under a bond of $2,000. Tuesday, May 14. the Grand Jury heard several witnesses in the case. I being one of them, and an indictment was found against Zappa. On Tuesday. June 18. the case was called in Criminal Court and Zappa failed to appear for trial, having been previously released on furnishing the bond required. The court promptly ruled that Zappa had forfeited his bond, and caused a bench warrant to be issued. This is the first case since the organization of the fire department, especially the lire mar shal’s office, where an attempt has been made to burn property by using bog bladders tilled with benzine and ammonia in order to destroy the evidence of fire and for the purpose of defrauding the insurance company. Under separate cover ! have mailed you pictures that I have had taken for evidence in the trial and for future reference.


Very respectfully,

P. W. NICHOLSON. Fire Marshal.

Washington, D. C., July 1. 1912.

The accompanying illustrations taken for this magazine show the scene of operation and the man who is accused of the crime. Exhibit No. 1 is the barber shop and dwelling where the lire occurred. Exhibit Xo. 2 is a front and side view of Zappa, the accused. Exhibit Xo. is the interior of the room where the first was started, showing the bladders. The’ cross indicates the hat box with lighted candle on top. These were wrapped in a burlap bag. Exhibit 1 is the hat box which contained the bladders filled with ex plosives. Exhibit 5 is a view of the interior of the barber shop as it appeared after the fire. Exhibit ii shows on the top row the bladders after they had been burned, while the lower row pictures the bladders as they looked before the lire had been started. These contained petroleum benzine and ammonia water.


At Whitby, Out., the Ontario Ladies’ College was barely saved from destruction by the very fine work of the local fire brigade aided by the efficiency of the town’s waterworks. The blaze started in a chute passing from the upper stories of the servants’ wing to the basement, and the first notice of the outbreak was given by the flames bursting into the housemaids’ rooms. The college staff, which had been trained to light tires, held the flames in check till the local brigade came up.

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