THE NASSAU STREET FIRE.
CHILF BONNER and his men deserve all the credit possible for the efficient manner in which they handled the fire in Nassau and Ann streets last week. They had to fight against much the same odds as the firemen of London during the recent Cripplegate fire-narrow streets and buildings crowded together, some of them old ramshackle structures, whose presence is a perpetual menace to the safety of their neighbors. The water supply was so poor as to emphasize the demand for the auxiliary pipe system, while the height of the surrounding skyscrapers-one of which was badly damaged – added to the trouble. As Chief Bonner has since pointed out,
the engine pipe lines cannot do effective work at a height exceeding 125 feet. The ordinary engine stream is practically worthless against a good blaze, and is only useful in putting out smouldering cinders. With six or seven engines concentrating their force on the water tower we do effective work; but with an auxiliary pipe line and powerful fire tugs pumping the water we could have dozens of such voluminous streams and could use them whenever and wherever we cared to. Then we could stand a show of getting the best of a fire. It takes a great volume of water to extinguish a hot blaze, and at any height the ordinary stream is worthless. With the auxiliary pipe system we could do better work at greater heights, get greater volume to our streams, use the river water, and still have the same facilities that we have now to help us out.
The experience of the firemen in the fifteen-story fireproof Vanderbilt building, where the elevators had stopped running for the night, and in which apparently there was either no means of fighting a fire or else no one competent to essay the task (in the Nassau Chambers there was not even a hand grenade fire extinguisher), is instructive. The hose had to be dragged by hand up the stairs to the ninth story ! What wonder then that the firemen were exhausted long before they reached that height? Yet FIRE AND WATER has been scoffed at for predicting just that very difficulty ! Another lesson is afforded by the same building. It caught fire from outside exposure, thereby accentuating the truth of Chief Bonner’s prophecies as to the liklihood of such a thing taking place, and causing the fear to arise that, even with iron window frames, the danger of the flames setting fire to the contents of a warehouse supposedly “absolutely fireproof ” is not so remote as is claimed. A contemporary puts it tersely and aptly:
The windows of a fireproof building, above the roofs of ordinary buildings, seem to be regular targets for all the fires in the neighborhood-just as wooden church steeples or wooden mansards rising above the general roof levels catch the fires for blocks around.