FIRE AND LOSS OF LIFE AT NEWARK.
(Special correspondence of FIRE AND WATER.)
NEWARK, N. J., March 12, 1900.
What was undoubtedly the worst fire in Newark’s history from the standpoint of fatalities attending it, caused the death of sixteen men, women, and children, and partially destroyed the three-story frame rookery at the southeast corner of Morris and Fourteenth avenues at 5 o’clock yesterday morning. The fire was discovered by one of the tenants, of whom there were some sixty or seventy in the building at the time, and an alarm was at once turned in from the box directly across the street from the doomed structure at 5:07. This box brought out three engines, one truck, chief, assistant chief, Battalion Chief Sloan and the salvage corps. Chief Sloan was the first to arrive, and right behind him was No. 3 truck. By this time the building was a mass of flames, and it was impossible for the firemen to enter. Some tenants were carried out, and others escaped by jumping, but, after the fire had been extinguished sufficiently’ for the men to enter, a search was commenced under the personal direction of Chief Kiersted, who was coated from head to foot with ice, as were most of his men, and then the awful work of the flames was first seen. Body after body was removed until fourteen had been taken out. The extreme cold weather made it difficult for the firemen to work—the thermometer being then only ten above zero and a heavy wind blowing. The fire was confined practically’ to the building in which it started, and the financial loss will be not over $1,000. The cause is a mystery. There had been considerable disorder at the place in the evening, and suspicion is pointed towards one Italian as having fired the building for revenge. One man named Vito Credatizo has been arrested on suspicion.
Chief Kiersted arraigned the building department for permitting such a deathtrap to exist. It was formerly’a church, and the rooms were built up on either side of the long hallways, running the length of the building on the second and third floors. The fire had gained such headway when the firemen arrived that it was impossible for them to do anything but fight the fire. It was a good thing for all that the adjoining brick walls were there to stop the blaze from getting beyond the department.
This fire (said Chief Kiersted) will do much towards impressing citizens with the fact that firetraps exist in our city, and that similar catastrophes may occur at any time. What with the Snyder conflagration, the Lister fire, and this tragedy, the city has been taught a lesson which it ought not soon to forget. It was a crime to permit the construction of such a building, and worse crime to permit its transformation into such a fearful trup as this proved to be. The building department must be responsible, us it must have known, or should have known, at least, of the character of the construction. There are many other traps just as bad as this one was in this city. There has been little, if any restriction on their erection, and little or no protection in the event of a fire like this.
Bince the above was written, two moredead bodies were found.