FIGHTING THE FLAMES.
THE FIREMEN OF NEW YORK CALLED UPON TO QUENCH A CONFLAGRATION.
A conflagration more sweeping and destructive than any that has visited New York for years on Monday night fairly obliterated the stables of the Fourth Avenue Railroad Company, consumed a section of Morrell’s storage establishment, opposite it, and ate its way through the block to Thirty-first street. Rarely before has so large a district been threatened with utter destruction, and perhaps never has a larger mul_____itude of the abiders of the city been brought together to witness a spectacle so magnificently terrible. The wind, strong all through the night and blowing with the greatest intensity during the early stages of the fire, forced the flames through the wide intervening spaces between the rows of houses, bridged the streets with glowing arches and carried away over the housesteps a storm of ci_____ders and fiery fragments that threatened at every moment to sow the seeds of conflagration anew. All of the force of the Fire Department that could with prudence be concentrated at a single spot was called upon. The stables themselves, covering the whole block bounded by Fourth and Lexington avenues and Thirtysecond and Thirty-third streets, were in a half hour’s time burned to the ground. The row of buildings across Thirty-second street yielded one after another to the force of the flames, which, soon devouring their way into the inte ior of the block, threatened to sweep away the line of frailer tenement houses and flats on Thirtyfirst street. At the same time a mass of flames and blazing cinders were driven across Lexington avenue. The house fronts were blistered by the heat and the street were strewn with coals of fire. The work of the Fire Companies at this terrible crisis began to tell. The red square of Morrell’s storage which was fairly swept by the flames still rose out of them almost unscathed. The houses next to it dwindled to skeletons, shivered and collapsed, and there shot up about it a volume of fire and smoke that hurled itself aloft as if from the throat of a volcano; but the building still stood firm, with floods of water streaming down its sides, and up in the murk and glare above it the lamps of the busy fire laddies gleamed like stars. Then for the first time the wa ching multitude really felt a basis for hope in an ending of the conflagration. The block of houses running down to Thirtyfirst street along Fourth avenue, which had been abandoned by the inmates and had been given up for lost, had a chance of salvation, and it was evident that if the fire was stemmed there it would soon be confined to the buildings already burning. For a time it was feared that the flames, which now raged most intensely in the centre of the block be ween Thirty-first and Thirty-second streets, would devour the lighter structures on (he former street, but, though the flames beat agains the walls and every inch of timber exposed on the side ass iled crumbled beneath the flames they managed to escape, although all blackened and blistered.
How the fire originated no one seems able to ascer ain. It was at about forty minutes past six that two stablemen going (o look after the horses discovered it. The two men Were made aware of the outbreak of the flames by the rush of smoke and sparks from the loft. They hurried away to give the a’arm and rouse a fire patrol which had been organized in the building. However, before the men could be fairly called together the whole of the Lexington avenue side of the building was burning, and the flames, sweeping through the dry feed and stubble in the loft, rushed on in every direction, filling the building with thick smoke and making any organized action to stay them unavailing. The first thought of all was for the horses, of which several hundred were housed in the stalls below. The men scurried down stairs, loosened them as speedily as possible, and turning them into the passages drove them up to the door above, where exit to the street was easy. But before they had cleared the stalls a panic seized all. Still the stablemen strove to free them, but a large section of the stable was yet to be reached when the heat and smoke became unb arable, and in the wild clamor and trampling, all hand excited and thinking of their lives, made for the street, while down below scores of poor brutes, straining and tugging in their stalls, showed by their piteous neighing that they felt the agonies oi the death that was coming upon them. The rattle of the Engines hurrying to the fire swelled the tumult of the drivers’ shouts, and the conflagration, now sweeping along the building and shooting high into the air, threw a frigh ful crimson glare over all.
The bursting fvrth of the flames with such fearful rapidity, and the lighting up of the streets for many blocks distant drew an immense crowd to the scene of the fire almost as soon as the Engines arrived. As the flames mounted higher and the grand illumination extended its rapidly growing area, the crowd increased, and for a time it was almost impossible for the police to keep the impetuous throng from pushing through the lines established to keep it back. It seemed as though all New York had gathered there to witness the conflagration. The chilly blast sweeping from the north was unheeded, and for hours the crowd remained watching with intense anxiety the progress of the fire. At a quarter to ten o’clock, when the main portion of the fire was under control, the flames ate their way into the paint and oil shop on the extreme eastern side of the burning stables. Barrels of naphtha exploded, walls fell in with the noise of exploding field pieces, women shrieked and scampered away, while dense clouds of stifling smoke rolled up and for a minute entirely hid the flames from sight. Then out of the inky mass burst a cloud of sparks and cinders, which were hurled down upon the roofs half a mile away. For two hours there was scarcely a minute that persons were not s en hurrying along the streets w th valises of valuables or piles of documents in their arms. Street cars were used for storing furniture and baggage as it was brought from the houses. Beds were brought out of houses and placed near the doors, rady far instant removal. The situation ot the Park Avenue Hotel, directly opposite to the stables, caused a good deal of apprehension at first for its safety. One or two Engines poured streams oi water upon the front as a prudent measure of precaution.
The first alarm of fire sent out was followed in quick succession by a third, and then one alter the other three special calls were issued. Engiv.es Nos. 26. 16 and 21, the first called out, reached the stables only when the blaze was sweeping down upon Fourth avenue, after enveloping the whole of the Lxingfon avenue side of the stables. At that time the hands, powerless to stem the flames, were hallooing and urging on the herds of horses outside the building, wnile a few with some teams hastily driven up were trying to run the cars out of the stable. The Firemen went to work will a will. Streams were turned upon the bni’ding, but in the rush of the fire they did not seem to have any effer. In a quarter of an hour the whole of the car stables was a mass of flame. In five minuses more the middle of the st ucture collapsed and fell in, and then . s from a furnace was poured the volume of fire that painted all the sky above the city its own crimson tint, and, beaten eastward by the wind, poured a tempest of sparks and cinders upon the streets down to the edge of the river. Suddenly a new cause for alarm arose. The big warehouse cn Thirty-third street, across from the s’ables, lickd by the flames although flooded by water, bur^t into flames, and as wall after wall of the depot crashed and fell inward, leaving only a burning area level with the stteet, the great height of the storage building was suddenly transformed into a blazing skeleton, where the masonry, standing d irkly in the sheet of fire, swayed and tottered, and seemed ever r« ady to collapse. The Engines had to be withdrawn from the front of the blazing pile, and every energy was turned to save the corner structure which, il it yielded, would open a way for the passage of the flame along the whole block. When the stables of Mr. Morrell, in the rear of the fallen sto e-hoines, blazed up and the fire began to rush into the centre of the block, the whole line of dwellhouses on Fourth avenue and Thirty-fir t street were menaced, and the Firemen turned their attention to them. In every c ne they hurried out the inmates, many of whom resisted and held on to the last to save what valuabl s they cou’d gather together. The yards in the centre of the block were a seething mass of flames, and, looking through the doors of any of the houses to the rear, there appeared to be glowing there an immense furnace. When the stables went down a gust of fire swept aero, s the buildings south of it that set such framework as was unwetted afire, and nearly brought several adventurous onlookers on the housetop to grief. But from that the flames burned less intensely, and at eleven o’clock the fire was fairly under control.
The loss on the car stables and contents will amount to about $300,000, with an insurance of half that sum. About 30 cars and one-tlnrd of the horses, or 325, were burned. The storage build ng was insu ed for $100,000, and was probably worth $150,000. The value of its contents is unc rtain, but is thought to be about $1,500,000. Many wealthy families had stored there furniture, paintings, e‘c. of great value, and in most eases no insurance was earned.
While making a tour through Carl Upmann’s cigar factory at Nos 512 and 514 East Sevent enth street, at twenty minutes to nine o’clock on Monday morning, the superintend nt saw smoke in the strippers’ department in the second story. About one hundred girls were seated at the benches. After making further investigation, he quietly told the girls to stop work and go out of the building as quickly as they possibly could. After fifty or more of them had descended the stairs to the street one of the girls, who was still in the second story, discovered flames ri ing through the floor, and raised the cry of fire. Her companions then rushed for the stairs, and al hough they crush-d and trampled on each other made their way safely to the street. Between ninety and one hundred men who were in the third story having been warned of die danger, made their way to the roof and crossed to adjoining houses, through which they descended. Hardly had the pretubes been deserted by the workmen and the gills before the fire spread to the hatchway by which it made its way to the roof. The flames were not extinguished until the building had been burned out. The cigar factory, which had a frontage of fifty feet on the street, was seventy-five feet deep. It is supposed that the fire which broke out in the first story, in the sweating-room, was due to spontaneous combustion. The fourth and fifth floors were used for storing stock, and c -nt.nined between two and three millions manufactured cigars and 100 bales of leaf tobacco. The firm estimate their loss on stock at $100,000, and the damage to the building js placed at $25,000. The loss is covered by insurance. There were numerous other fires the same day, and the Firemen had a very busy time.