FIRE AT SETON COLLEGE

FIRE AT SETON COLLEGE

Early in the morning of March 28 a fire of unknown origin broke out in the main hall of Seton Hall, the wellknown Roman Catholic college near South Orange, New Jersey, and completely gutted the eastern wing of the main building and seriously damaged the library and other portions of the institution. The progress of the flames was so rapid that within half an hour they were beyond control. The building—or, rather, group of nine buildings—is in many ways quite an oldfashioned structure, and so arranged with long dormitories, classrooms, study and recreation halls, wooden stairways and the like as to give the flames every facility for spreading. There is no pretence at fireproofing, nor is there any protection in the way of sprinklers or inside standpipes. There is not even a hand-engine round the place, nor any means of quenching an incipient fire. Implicit trust seems to have been reposed in Providence to avert any such calamity as befell the college. Yet it is not the first time that the building—a long, rambling, betowered structure erected in 1856—has been so visited, apparently without profiting by the warning. The South Orange fire department was summoned, hut was unable to do much, the Orange department was not more successful, and it was not till Chief Astley and Battalion Chief Exall arrived with two steamers and their crews that there was any chance afforded of saving the whole of the main building and its annexes. But by the time the Newark men and apparatus came up the fire had been getting in its work for two hours. The only source of water supply was from two old style standpipes round the building, and an approach to two h i gh -p r e s s u r e streams was thus brought in to operation. The out side hydrants on South Orange avenue were 200 ft. distant from the grounds and the college buildings themselves are still farther off, and it was from these that the greater part of the water supply was furnished to the engines H ence, by the time it had been conveyed by the long lines of hose to the burning building, the pressure was so reduced as to be of comparatively little service. Fortunately there was but little wind, and what there was was from the northeast. Had it been otherwise, the sparks and flames must have communicated to the other buildings, and the outcome would have been toal destruction. Only the hardest of hard and skilful fighting saved the main building and the library, with its valuable contents—books, manuscripts and the like, the majority of which the students and their professors and tutors carried out to a place of safety. The library was connected with the main structure, in which the fire burned most fiercely by a passageway, the kitchen of the college being in the basement of the library building, and probably the blaze started in one of the basement lockers. The passageway attached to the wing in which the fire broke out was 1-story and 10 ft. wide. At each end were doorways, and these were open. The bad back draught thus created would every now and then send the flames through; but this source of danger was cut off by the South Orange fire men, who closed the doors. The Orange firemen climbed to the roof, at the north end of winch was a 40-ft. tower, whose base was already lapped by the flames. Had it caught and collapsed, the whole college would have gone. All the water pressure possible was brought to bear on this section, but Michael Fitzsimmons, the vil lage clerk, former assistant chief of the Orange fire department, took charge, and himself acted as hoseman. lie first threw a stream on the tower; then he released it quickly, and as quickly turned ihe water on it again as the tower swayed to cither side. Then he and his men directed the stream straight up the tower as it swung, and by the additional leverage when the water reached the high point loosened the tower and forced it from its supports. It fell over into the flaming ruins, outside of the danger line. After that the firemen were free to work on the passageway, and they kept it so well wet down that the college building was saved. The method adopted was a rough-and-ready one and may be looked upon as crude by some scientific firefighters; but it saved the library. The students, professors and other inmates had narrow escapes. The main halls and the stairway were so full of smoke that it was impossible to make use of them. The fire escapes, however, were available, and by their means the men and lads, numbering 100 or more, got down safely. It was nearly four hours before the fire was properly under control. The loss to the building alone was fully $50,000, and the private losses were quite heavy, and all the inmates could save was their lives.

BURNED LIBRARY AT SETON COLLEGE.RUINS OF THE BURNED SETON HALL COLLEGE DORMITORY.

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