Two fires, attended with loss of life, occurred in New York last week. The first was in a tenement house in Cannon street, occupied by several families, five persons losing their lives. The second one occurred in a building used for various manufacturing purposes in Lafayette Place. The deaths in Cannon street were the truil of had construction in a tenement house. There was no fireproof staircase, no means ol escape at all. Hence a whole family perished in the flames. The fire broke out at about half past 2 o’clock in the morning. When the Engines came the whole lower pari of the house was a gulf of smoke and blaze. On the top floor at a window, stood a man in his night dress holding a baby. He screamed for help, crying that the stairs were impassable. Presently he put down the child and leaped from the window. It was forty feet from the ground, and he fell, according to those who saw him, with a loud “ thud,” full on his head, and died before a doctor could get to the spot.

The Firemen behaved nobly. They could not save this poor frantic father, but they saved several others. Five persons, however, were burned alive, or suffocated by the smoke, and no exertions, however heroic, could aid them. What in truth can Firemen do, let them be brave as they may, in a situation like this ? So long as tenement houses are built, or suffered to exist, that are simply death-traps, such perils will exist and such awful calamities will continue to happen. It is alleged that this particular fire was kindled by one of the tenants who had in the building a very little property and a very heavy insurance upon it; but this has not been proved, and whether such conflagrations occur by accident or design, the danger is the same to the unhappy persons who are their so frequent victims,

A kerosene lamp was the source of the other fire. It burst forth on Lafayette Place and destroyed much valuable property, including the offices of the Churchman. At a li tie after 5 o’clock a person employed by the Celluloid Shoe Protector Company, in carelessly throwing down a coat, upset a lighted lamp which was close to some heaps of Canton flannel. The flames sprang up in an instant, and the destruction of what it will cost a hundred thousand dollars to replace, was the swift consequence. But this was but a part and the least part of the mischief. A poor woman, Mrs. Augusta Schaffer, the wife of the janitor of the building was cut off by the flames at the top of the house. She saw no possible means of escape, and resolved to leap down rather than be burned alive. Like the unhappy John Bodzki in Cannon street, on the same morning, she therefore jumped into the street, and like him sustained, in so doing, fatal injuries. The loss of life might have been far more serious. There were 350 working girls in the lofts of the Stewart building, which also caught fire, and many other artisans, book-binders and others in various lofty and exposed chambers hard by; but, fortunately, no one perished but Mrs. Schafter, and the fire was taken in hand soon enough to keep it within easy manageable limits.

THE JOURNAL has commented so many times upon the faulty construction of buildings, and the want of foresight in caring for them, that we prefer to quote here what the Evening Post says about these latest disasters : We have said that these dreadful casualties could have been prevented, and it is plain that those who build tenement houses like that in Cannon street, and those who own them, are guilty of what it must take a refined casuist to distinguish from crime. It is said that the law has been practically disregarded in some new edifices meant lor tenements, and that changes commanded by the law in old edifices used for this purpose have not been made. The Cannon street example should warn the officers who are responsible to look to their duty and to execute it firmly and without delay. The disaster on Lafayette Place, on the other hand, supplies an impressive caution as to the perils of kerosene lamps, and suggests the wisdom of prohibiting the use of such illuminators except as fixtures in all buildings used as manufactories or employing many hands. As things stand, the folly, drunkenness, or criminal recklessness of one person may endanger at any moment the lives of hundreds, and this is not a condition of things that should remain unchanged.”

No posts to display