New York Firemen Narrowly Escape Suffocation.
The monetary loss sustained by the Morton House fire a few days ago was greatly overshadowed by the narrow escape from suffocation by several members of the New York fire department. At times there were as many as half a dozen firemen stretched out on the street, on both the Broadway and the Fourteenth street sides, and Dr. Archer, the Fire Department physician, assisted by several surgeons from St. Vincent’s Hospital, had a hard time bringing the men around. The hotel runs from Nos. 850 to 858 Broadway and occupies the four upper floors of the building. Keith’s Bijou Dream Theater abuts it on the east. The kitchen of the hotel is in the cellar which runs underneath the theater. The facades of both structures join at the street front, but ten feet back there is an areaway several feet wide.
When Acting Chief Kenlon arrived, after the first alarm, he took command, relieving Battalion Chief Worth, who was the first officer on the job. Kenlon at once sent in a second alarm, and as a precautionary measure, when he realized the character of the blaze, a third. The fire had to be fought in the cellar, and it was impossible for the men to get to it. Kenlon saw at once that the only way to fight it would be in short relays—to turn a set of men loose for a little while and as soon as they were knocked out jump others in to take their places. To make ready for what he saw was coming he turned in a call for ambulances. To reach the fire it was necessary to smash in the street vault lights, pull up the coal-scuttle covers, pry open the cellar doors and then to attach the subcelar nuzzles to the high pressure hose. The firemen would throw themselves on the hose to prevent it from snaking, get a stomach full of smoke and run for dear life, while others took their places. Kenlon ran from squad to squad, rooting like mad, cheering the men on, patting them on their hacks, calling them good old huskies, and warning them: “Stick together hoys —and look out for the gas.” Capt. Michael Hanley of Engine No. 11 was in the hat store on the ground floor, with four of his men, William A O’Connell was alongside of him. The smoke had become heavily charged with gas from the melted pipes in the cellar and the flames had come up through the wall. Hanley, who is a six-footer, weighs 200 pounds and is an athlete to boot suddenly cried out, “Boys, it’s got me,” and then keeled over. O’Connell caught him as he fell, and started for the door with him through the dark, blinding smoke, when he went over, too. The other men rushed out and reported to Chief Kenlon. who jumped in Company I. which had just arrived in response to the third alarm, under command of Capt. Calahey. They caught the two men and dragged them out. McConnell responded to treatment at once, hut Hanley had to he rushed off to the hospital. Engine Company No. 72 was down in the cellar, fighting the fire at close range, when the smoke got to Capt. Foley and Acting Battalion Chief Shannon. As they dropped the men poked a hole in the vault lights just ill front of tile theater and yelled. I ruck No. smashed in the whole glass sidewalk, dropped down a ladder and got Foley and Shannon out. Shannon came a p md all right, but holey had to be taken to the hospital. The fire was got under control in the cellar before it had much chance to spread beyond the studding, where it was easily put out, and caused a damage of about $50,000. None of the firemen made use of a smoke helmet. The adoption of this useful appliance seems to be looked upon by New York firemen as an evidence of weakness or fear on their part, and they prefer to risk their lives rather than to be considered effeminate. The accompanying illustrations. taken expressly for FIRE AND WATER ENGINEERING, show Dr. Archer working over one of the smoke victims; also the firemen in the act of breaking in the cellar. All of the firemen have practically recovered. The damage did not exceed $50,000.