Chain of Nine Fires in Manhattan.
Firemen in quarters south of Canal street, this city, were forced to fight nine fires, three of them of two-alarm proportions, between 10:30 o’clock last Wednesday night and 5:30 o’clock Thursday afternoon, the last being the Cook’s Tour building at 245 Broadway. Chief Croker, Deputy Chief Binns, and Battalion Chief Davin, who directed the men at the last fire, had been present at each of the other two-alarm fires. Binns and Davin having only just left the ruins of 108-110 Duane street, which caught fire on Wednesday night, when they had to turn out for the Broadway blaze. Most of the men of the engine and truck companies had been at work on the other fires, too, and many of them, including Binns and Davis, were burned about their faces and hands by back-draughts. The Broadway fire, which started at 5:30, a time when homeward-bound workers thronged City Hall Park, opposite which the Cook building stands, provided a spectacle which the police estimated was viewed by 100,000 persons. As a result, the Subway, Broadway, Madison and Third avenue surface cars and the entire B. R. T. system, both elevated and surface, faced an inundation of passengers when the throng finally broke away from the fire. Cars on all these lines were jammed and schedules were thrown out of operation by the sudden influx of passengers. The blaze in the Cook building was discovered by Policeman Bennin, of Traffic Squad A, who noticed, as darkness settled over the city and lights beagn to flash in office and store windows, that the windows on the fifth and sixth floors of the Cook building were suspiciously bright. No flames or smoke appeared, but Bennin ran to a fire alarm box. Several companies, still at work on the Duane street ruins, had to come only a few blocks, yet by the time they arrived flames were shooting from the windows of the fifth and sixth floors on the Broadway side. The building is “L” shaped, its extension running through to 2 Murray street. The flames did not work through To this side, however, and while the firemen were busy in Broadway some one noticed three girls and a man huddled on the fourth floor fire escape in Murray street, apparently too frightened to descend the vertical ladders from floor to floor and thence to the street. Driver John Ziegler, of Truck 10. learned of the group on the escape, and with the help of volunteers lifted a twenty-five-foot ladder from the truck and raised it to the lower fire escape. Ziegler mounted to the fourth floor, where lie found that one of the girls had fainted. He lifted her over his shoulder and. ordering the others to follow him, started down the ladders. Smoke was coming from the windows by this time, but with Ziegler to lead them the young man and the other girls stuck to the ladders until they reached the sidewalk in safety. There the girl’s senses returned and she went home, as did the others. The fire had started, apparently, in the basement, and ascending an airshaft had spread out on the fifth and sixth floors, from which it began to eat its way downward. Water tower 1 was stationed in Broadway, and high-pressure streams were thrown into the building from other pieces of apparatus. In the top floor, apparently, were stored quantities of inflammable materials, however, for the blaze burned briskly despite the tons of water thrown into it. Shortly after 6 o’clock, when the throng was thickest about the building, the roof caved in, carrying away the sixth and fifth floors and sending a shower of burning embers and sparks from all the windows on the Broadway and Murray street sides. Tt was nearly 7 o’clock before the fire was under control, and then the three top floors were in ruins, while everything else in the building was damaged by water. How the fire started is not known. The other two two-alarm fires with which the firemen had to contend were at 108 and 110 Duane street and 81 Pine street. High pressure was used in both instances, and but for this, the firemen said, these fires would have been of four-alarm proportions. The whole firefighting force of the lower end of the city was called out for the nine fires, and at night substitutes had to be sent to many of the fire houses to replace men who were exhausted by nearly twenty-four hours of unceasing work.