TWO BIG BLAZES.
Santa Claus gave the New York Firemen plenty of work Christmas Eve and very little time to attend to the festivities incident to that occasion. Early in the evening a fire was discovered in a prominent building on Broadway, necessitating the sending out of a third alarm. It was a stubborn fire, and. for a time, threatened adjoining buildings, and a large conflagration. But through hard work, under great disadvantages, the fire was confined to the building in which it originated. The loss, however, was severe, being variously estimated at from $200,000 to $250,000. When the debris is cleared away, and the salvage gathered up, it is doubtful if the insurance companies will pay more than $100,000.
Whde this Broadway fire was raging, flames were discovered in the large bonded warehouse fronting on Maiden Lane and South street. This is an immense structure, and was filled on every floor, to its utmost capacity, with goods of which the United States Government was the custodian, holding them until the revenue taxes should be paid on them. These goods consisted of almost everything that pays revenue to the government—silks, tea, tobacco, cigars, liquors, etc. The windows and doors were protected by iron shutters, and no one was allowed access to the building except in company with a government officer. When the fire was discovered, a third alarm was at once sent out, but much of the apparatus that should have responded thereto was engaged at the Broadway fire and could not be spared. Asa consequence, the South street fire had to be fought short handed, and in face of the fact that it was apparent that it was going to be a big blaze. Much delay was encountered by the Firemen in obtaining access to the building on account of the iron doors and shutters, and, meantime, the flames had spread throughout the building. An open hoistway contributed greatly to the spread of the flames, serving as a flue to carry them from floor to floor in a remarkably short space of time. But the men worked manfully, and were soon reinforced by men and apparatus from the Broadway fire. The Fire Boat Havemeyer came also to their support, and taking position at the dock was soon delivering, four powerful streams ot salt water upon the burning buildings. It was a long, tedious fight, occupying the entire night and part of the next day, but the Department succeeded in confining the fire to the bonded warehouse, and saving the valuable property in its immediate vicinity. While the whole interior of this building was a mass of flames it became necessary to pour into it all the water possible, and, as a consequence, the goods in store were greatly damaged by water. In the basement it accumulated to the depth of two feet or more, and the Firemen had to wade about in this in the performance of their work. A cold water bath is not a pleasant thing to take on Christmas Eve under the most favorable circumstances, but to be obliged to stand for hours in water almost up to the waist, on such a night, is enough to give one the rheumatism for life.
The loss by this fire was in the neighborhood of $2,000,000, the exact amount cannot be ascertained until the insurance companies foot up their salvage. This, it is believed, will equal 40 per cent of the insurance, so that probably $1,000,000 will cover the loss to the insurance companies. This is much less than the first estimates, but even this amount is not a pleasant dose for the companies to swallow at the close of the year.
Another illustration is furnished by these big blazes of the fact that the present style’ of iron shutters and doors so generally in use are a greater evil than good. They may serve to protect a building when an adjoining one is in flames, but when the flames are inside this protection delays the firemen, and, consequently, enhances the loss. The time consumed in breaking into the buildings protected by iron shutters, fastened inside, gives the flames an opportunity to gain a headway that it is impossible to overcome at a later period. “ The first five minutes at a fire are worth the next hour,” has become an axiom in the fire service ; when five times five minutes are consumed in getting access to the flames, the building in which they are raging is doomed to destruction. In this instance, the iron shutters were responsible for a great portion of the loss. Serious defects in the construction of the building also tended to swell the loss. The immense values contained on the various floors were comparatively unprotected by division walls, while the open hoistway carried the flames rapidly from floor to floor. Every floor was overloaded with goods, and, owing to the absence of proper division walls, were all exposed to flames originating in any part of the building. In fact, owing to defects of construction, the building and its contents were foreordained to destruction whenever a fire occurred within it. The perils of the firemen were greatly increased in consequence of the frequent explosions of casks of liquors that formed part of the stock of goods in bond. These exploded several times during the fire, but fortunately without involving loss of life. It was a big blaze, energetically fought, and happily prevented from becoming an extended conflagration. To the unflagging exertions of the firemen, and the skill and coolness of Chief Bates and his assistants, the city is indebted for an escape from an impending disaster, the limit of which could not be predicted had the flames spread to adjoining buildings. It was a Christmas Eve not likely to be soon forgotten by the firemen.