Fire Captain Loses Life in Million Dollar Lowell Fire
Massachusetts City Suffers One of Its Worst Business Building Fires— Captain Crushed by Wall—Other Firemen Injured—Week’s Burnings
A LOSS amounting to nearly one million dollars, the death of a captain of the fire department and the injury of eight other firemen, the destruction of four buildings and the endangering of many sections of the city through flying sparks was the result of a fire in Lowell, Mass., on April 27. The blaze originating at 12:34 A. M., from an unknown cause, apparently in the Lisbon Club rooms on the top floor of the five-story Associate Building in the City Hall district of Lowell, had practically enveloped the building when the first alarm summoned the Lowell apparatus, under the command of Chief Saunders. On his arrival, seeing the threatening nature of the fire, Chief Saunders at once sounded a general alarm bringing all the apparatus of the city and telephoned for help to Lawrence and the town of Dracut, both of which sent apparatus and men. From the Associate Building the fire spread to the Academy of Music, the K of C. and the Mongeau Buildings. By 1:30 o’clock it was evident that the Associate Building and the Academy of Music were doomed and the K. of C. and the Mongeau Building were also badly involved.
At the height of the fire Captain Edward P. Cunningham of Engine Company No. 6 was directing his men from an aerial ladder raised against the Worthen Street side of the Associate Building. Hoseman John Gray was strapped to the topmost rung of the aerial ladder and others of the crew were fighting the fire from the same vantage point when the brick wall against which the ladder was placed collapsed. The mass of masonry fell upon these men crushing the life out of Captain Cunningham and badly injuring eight of the other fire-fighters. The aerial, which will be seen in the smaller illustration, was badly crushed. The escape of the other men was almost miraculous, as they were struck on all sides by the falling bricks and were bruised and stunned. Hoseman Gray hung unconscious from the top of the broken aerial until rescued. There were several explosions arising from back draughts during the fire and walls crashed on all sides, endangering the fire-fighters, although there were no other casualties. So furiously did the fire burn that the Associate Building was a mass of flames within fifteen minutes after the time of the first alarm. To the rear of the building masses of brick and mortar fell upon the roof of a two and one-half story brick structure occupied by the J. J. Spark Company and crushed it like an eggshell. The brick stable adjoining this building was badly shaken by the shock but the roof and walls held and the firemen and police released 27 horses imprisoned there.
It is supposed that the fire originated from one of the thousand persons who attended a dance at the Associate Hall the previous night throwing a lighted cigar or cigarette on some rubbish. The Associate Building was five stories in height; the Mongeau Block four. The adjoining buildings were two and one-half and three stories high and all were of brick. The fire was under control at 4:30 A. M.
During the height of the fire the air was filled with sparks and for many blocks they rained down upon roofs and awnings, setting many small fires. Many of these were taken care of by the apparatus from Lawrence and this department did much to save the city of Lowell from a bad conflagration.
Captain Edward P. Cunningham who was killed was a native of Lowell and was about 40 years of age. He had been in the Lowell fire department about 15 years and had been appointed captain only a short time ago. He leaves a wife and several children.
The loss was variously estimated between $800,000 and $1,000,000.