FATAL MANHATTAN DRY GOODS HOUSE FIRE
Fires in the drygoods district of Manhattan are dreaded by the New York city department on many accounts. The inflammable nature of the contents, the firetrap nature of many of the buildings used as warehouses, the congested neighborhood, the narrow streets, the difficulty of getting at the fire, and, not seldom, the poor water pressure all present great difficulties in way of fighting the flames successfully. And when to these are added, as is often the case, poor hose, frozen hydrants, snow-blocked streets and zero weather, the possibilities of a general conflagration are multiplied. Yet there are recorded comparatively few fires in that territory, and, taken all round, the losses are comparatively small when weighed against the many millions of dollars’ worth that are exposed to danger, sometimes even in one warehouse. A fire in which many of these hampering conditions were present took place about three weeks ago in the cotton warehouse at 43-45 Worth street—the premises occupied by Woodward, Baldwin & Co., a five story brick building of the most approved firetrap description, ramshackle, wooden stairwaved, open shafts that acted as flues, and with all the adjuncts handy that were likely to help in spreading the flames to the-buildings on each side and opposite, one of which was the large Claflin? warehouse, the value of whose contents is well nigh fabulous The lire started in the third floor, at about 4 o’clock p. m., and burned for about four hours. It was a hot fire from the first, and with the hydrants frozen, the water pressure very poor, and the hose bursting, tiremen had but a poor chance. The water tower bad but scant space in which to operate: the cold was so intense that the men went about as if clad in ice, and what there was of water froze almost as soon as it hit the building. Employes of H. B. Claflin & Co., just across the street, who tried to turn on a stream from a floor high in their building, could got get enough pressure to carry a stream across the street to the burning structure in front of them. The water fell on the firemen below, drenching them, and then freezing to their helmets and uniforms in great icicles. Four lines of hose burst even under the light pressure from the engines, and, considering the extreme cold, it was expected more lines would have proved unequal to the strain. What was worse than all was the loss of two firemen, Frank Eglinton, of truck 10, and Fireman John J. McConnell, of engine No. 4. The latter was instantly killed by being crushed under a big iron safe that crashed down into the cellar from the third floor, which gave way and carried with it twelve firemen, including Captain Andrew Sweet, of truck 10, Lieutenant John W. Burnam, of truck 8, and Captain John Doonan, of engine company No. 4. Many of these were very severely injured, and the only wonder is they were not all killed. Eglinton’s fate was even more tragic than that of McConnell. John Kirk, of truck to. almost the last man to he brought out, had some ribs broken and many had bruises on his body. He and Eglinton were struck down together, the latter being farther in. The probabilities seem to have been that lie was not killed there and then, but only stunned, and that lie slowly froze to death. The loss was heavy—$250,000. I11 spite of all their difficulties and dangers, however, the loss WHS practically confined to the one building, which was completely gutted. As in the case of the fire in the Parker building, the floors were overloaded— a condition which rules in nearly every large mercantile structure of the old type, especially in the downtown district. The bodies of the dead firemen were not recovered for a long time. To fight this fire the force brought out was ample. Yet the flames made great headway before they were controled. The part of Worth street where it raged was between Church street and West Broadway. The first alarm brought five engines and Deputy Chief Guerin, whose second alarm brought five more engines, five more arriving on the third alarm. A water tower was also in attendance. As to the water supply : The average pressure is from 20 to 24 lb.—plenty for an ordinary fire. On Worth street is a 12-in. main; on West Broadway is another large main. These were the two drawn upon. The supply was ample; but the pressure never exceeded 24 lb.; sometimes it fell short of it. as the water tower stood idle, so to say, for twenty minutes and at best worked by fits and starts till the falling walls put an end to the fire. As to the hydrants on Worth street: Twelve feet from Broadway is one of the new high-pressure hydrants, and near it is one of the regular water department hydrants, with two connections. Each is on the north side of the street. On the east of Church street on the south side is one of the old fashioned single-connection hydrants, which was frozen on the night of the fire. With such inadequate hydrant connections in Worth street the t2-iit. main was practically out of commission. Three of the hydrants on that street are cf the oldfashioned type and cannot give adequate service. If for the new high-pressure mains is provided proper equipment, this ought to be remedied. But what if another fire breaks out before that is the case?
Oliver C. Giles is now fire chief at Elkton. Md.