Latest in Old Drug House Structure in Course of Demolition—Fire Runs Up Chute—Makes Had Blaze to Handle

NEW YORK City has had the sixth fire in a series of blazes in buildings in course of demolition during the past few months. Fire Marshal Thomas P. Brophy started an investigation. At this writing no motive has been established, yet fire officials are prone to believe that such fires may be the result of friction among the members of rival house wreckers’ unions.

The latest of these occured on Tuesday, August 25th, in one of the oldest buildings in the drug and chemical district of lower Manhattan Island. The building had been occupied for a great many years by the firm of McKesson & Robbins, manufacturing chemists. It was a five-story structure, extending through the block 150 feet to Ann street, with a frontage on Fulton and on Ann streets of about 200 feet.

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Fire in Partly Demolished Drug House Building in New York.

Fires in Buildings Being Torn Down

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For years firemen in the lower Manhattan districts used to look upon the possibilities of a fire in that building with apprehensive hearts. There wasn’t a time that the alarm box at Fulton and Gold streets struck, that the “boys in blue” didn’t exchange hopes that the call may not be for the drug house. The firm was of the most reliable and law-abiding type in that business, but nevertheless, firemen knew that a fire in the drug and chemical plant was sure to send some of them to nearby hospitals.

Recently the firm moved uptown to a more modern building. House wreckers had started to demolish the building. The contractor engaged to do the work of demolition had already salvaged thousands of dollars worth of building materials. At 1:11 p. m., fire was discovered in the cellar.

An alarm brought four engines, two trucks, one water tower, two battalion chiefs and one deputy chief of the department. The district is in the high pressure zone. All companies went to work. The fire was in full possession of the cellar and had gained the ground floor when the first alarm assignment arrived. Thirty house wreckers had fled the building. The cellar was filled with debris, rubbish, paper, etc.

The flames spread upward by means of a chute which extended the height of the building. The chute had been used by the drug firm for “shooting” merchandise from the various floors to the shipping room. Twenty-three minutes after the first alarm, Deputy Chief Henry B. Helm sent in a second alarm and “backed” all hands out of the building. The chute caused the fire to get beyond the efforts of four companies. The second alarm brought five more companies and Assistant Chief of Department Joseph B. Martin, upon his arrival called two more high pressure companies. The fire was out in about two hours.

The smoke was of the most acrid kind. It darkened the downtown district for an hour and caused excitement in the office buildings. It was the sort of smoke that comes only from drug or chemical fires. True that no drugs or chemicals were burning, but the interior of the building used for so many years for drug manufacturing was naturally permeated with drug and chemical dust or saturation.

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