Five Alarms for Film Studio Fire in New York

Five Alarms for Film Studio Fire in New York

One of the most spectacular and also one of the hardest blazes New York City firemen have had to contend with in many years occurred Saturday evening, September 10, when the studio building of the Famous Players’ Film Company was gutted, with an estimated loss of $400,000. Deputy Chief Martin, in command in the absence of Chief Kenlon, said it was one of the most difficult fires he has had in his experience. More than twenty-five firemen were overcome by celluloid fumes. The fire is believed to have started on the third floor of the five-story structure, occupied by the Independent Braid Company. From here the flames ate their way upward to the fourth floor, which was occupied entirely by the film company, and then to the glass-roofed studio on the top floor. The first alarm was turned in at 6.55. Arriving on the scene, Battalion Chief McGuire immediately sent in a second alarm followed shortly after by third, fourth and fifth alarms by Deputy Chief Martin. Burning in a confined space the celluloid films generated dense black fumes. These fumes, a product of incomplcted combustion, were both inflammable and explosive when a greater supply of oxygen was available. Every draft caused an explosion. A terrific one occurred when the film vaults buckled and dumped their contents into the flames already fed by thousands of feet of film from the finishing room. Deputy Chiet Martin and Battalion Chief McGuire headed a party of twenty firemen at work in the building just before an explosion demolished the roof. The battalion chief and half a dozen of the firemen were knocked down and eight or ten more were overcome before they could be dragged to the street. Black smoke and flame shot a hundred feet into the air. Twenty-five streams of water were played upon the flames from one side of the building. Two water towers deluged the top story, and at least twenty-five more streams were thrown from adjoining roofs. Nearly thirty thousand persons crowded the nearby streets to watch the blaze and police from four stations were called to preserve order. Surface cars were blocked for more than four hours. Miss Mary Pickford, the well-known actress, and others of the company’s actors left the building half an hour before the fire started, and the only person there at the time of the fire was the watchman, who escaped without injury. Fire Commissioner Adamson was early on the scene and he remained until the fire was under control. The commissioner declared that the fire demonstrated the necessity of more stringent regulations for the storage of films. He is quoted as saying: “This fire demonstrates the necessity of the film manufacturers getting together with a view to agreeing on conditions for the making and storing of films in a way that will eliminate so far as possible the danger of fire spreading to neighboring property. I have been over the situation thoroughly. I would urge the segregation of motion pictures film making plants in a location that would be central and convenient, and still removed from the heart of adjacent valuable property. Our waterfront offers many locations that should be desirable, if the film makers can agree on a scheme of segregation,”

Ruins of Top Portion of Building of Famous Players Film Company, New York.General View of Exterior of Famous Players’ Film Company Building After Fire.

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