Value of Training Men in Use of Net and of Good Maintenance Demonstrated

A Staff Report

TWO fires within a few days of each other in December demonstrated the value of the fire department life nets and the wisdom of training firemen in their use under every conceivable rescue condition. They also emphasized the importance of maintaining department nets in good condition, and having them readily available when needed.

The first of these fires occurred early on Christmas morning when a blaze wrecked the wing of the New Harmony hotel. Cayuga, street, Cohoes, N. Y., resulting in injuries to seven persons and forcing more than 60 persons to flee the old 50-room hotel.

The fire swept through the wing of the horseshoe building so rapidly that it was at first feared many lives had been lost. Prompt and effective work of the tire department, however, resulted in all the guests and employees being saved, twelve of them being removed by way of ladders and five more being rescued by means of department fire nets, following leaps from the second and third floors of the four story building.

Cohoes firemen directed by Fire Chief Charles S. Waters controlled the fire after a five-hour struggle which left the structure and firemen ice-coated, with property loss estimated at over $40,000. The west wing, where the fire started, was wrecked from the second to the fourth story.

The cause of the fire is reported undetermined at this writing. The first alarm was received by the department about 4:00 A.M., and upon arrival of the fire fighters the entire west wing was found charged with dense smoke and flames were making their way up through the interior. Many occupants of the hotel, for the most part permanent residents, were prevented from escaping by the stairways and fire escapes. A number were at windows prepared to jump to escape the advancing flames.

Firemen swung a life net into action, while others laddered the structure, Five of the patrons of the hotel were caught in the net, some of them receiving slight injuries. At least twelve others were brought down the ladders. One firemen, William de Wolfe, was partially overcome and two volunteers. Earl Quackenbush and John Sokolowski, suffered fractured ribs in the rescue and fire fighting operations. A partolman, Louis Manoni, was overcome by smoke during the rescue work.

According to Chief Wateys, the dense smoke and rapidly spreading flames cut off a roof escape exit to another building as well as a fire escape on Cortland street (the hotel faces on Cayuga, Mowhawk and Cortland streets). Stores on the ground floor suffered only smoke and water damage.

The hotel previously had two minor baizes within 24 hours in October, according to Chief Waters. They occurred in the Cortland street wing. In 1922 the building was the scene of one of the biggest fires in Cohoes history. It was rebuilt after that fire.

Elderly Couple Saved by Nef at Yonkers Fire

One of the most unusual fire net rescues of recent years was made in Yonkers, N. Y., when a three-alarm fire, of undetermined origin, swept through a 40-vear-old apartment house at 1 Park avenue on December 28th. Ten persons were injured, none seriously, as a result of the fire.

Reported starting in the basement of a drug store on the ground floor of the four-story brick and frame structure, the fire extended upward through vertical openings to involve the upper part of the building. Heavy smoke conditions, aggravated by leaking gas from basement connections, resulted in an explosion which blew out some of the upper floor windows, and affected the fire-fighters.

The smoke and gases cut off Mr. and Mrs. Catherine Plukas 60 and 62 years of age respectively, in their fourth floor apartment where they were in iminent danger of suffocation. Mr. Plukas and his wife reached a window on the Park street side of the structure and called for help.

Owing to the grade of the street at this point it was impossible to utilize an aerial ladder truck and the couple could not be reached from the Ashburton side windows of the upper floor.

According to Fire Chief Garvin of the Yonkers Fire Department, the aged couple had about determined to jump to the street when firemen got the net under their window. Mrs. Plukas. by this time partially overcome, was pushed out the window by her husband. In her fall of between 40 to 50 feet, she turned over and over, landing on hey side in the net, which had been hurriedly swung into position and was held by three members of the department and volunteers whom they had pressed into service.

Mr. Plukas followed his wife out the window. His body also turned over and over and he also was successfully caught in the net, without injury. Mrs. Plukas suffered a slight bump on the forehead in her fall but she was otherwise unhurt.

According to Chief Garvin, who directed the rescue the operation was handicapped by the heavy smoke condition, making for poor visibility, the slanting ground upon which the net holders had to stand, and the need of employing volunteers to assist the firemen in holding the net. Despite these drawbacks, the operation was 100 per cent successful, according to the chief.

Chief Garvin, six of whose men were overcome or affected by the smoke and gas conditions, credits the success of the rescue in large part to two factors; first, the intensive training in life net operations given all members of the Yonkers Fire Department and secondly, the policy of inspection and maintenance of the department in caring for all its fire nets. Only this training enabled the firemen in the few seconds at their disposal to get the net into operation and transmit the instructions to the volunteers in readiness to catch the two Plukas.

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Two Saved in Yonkers Following Four-Story Jumps Into Fire Net Yonkers, N. Y., firemen, aided by volunteers, laddering burning apartment at 1 Park avenue soon after elderly couple were rescued by dramatic drops into life net from location marked X” on picture. Street grade prevented use of aerial ladders.

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Among the firemen treated for smoke narcosis or other injuries at the fire were Lieut. Chris Fennel. Rescue Co.: Firemen John McKenzie, Engine 1. both of whom were hospitalized; Firemen James McEntee. Gene Pouria. Harry Martin. Dan Van Aiken. Boettius McGillicuddy and William Fahey, all of whom were treated on the scene by Fire Surgeon Charles Morrone.

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