July 1917 Fires

July 2, 1917: Jersey City, New Jersey: Shipping and commercial buildings near the Little Basin at the eastern terminal of Morris Canal were threatened by a fire that started just before 11:00 p.m. in a two-story wood frame building at the end of Packard’s Pier. This pier extended from the end of Washington Street 600 feet into the basin. The fire ignited in a second-floor office just above the boiler. City firefighters joined railroad teams in battling the extending flames. With numerous barges, tugs, lighters, and scows in jeopardy, the Jersey City firefighters moved in to defend the southern section where 5,000 barrels of resin were stored. Fire Department of New York fireboats moved in to help this effort. About 100 barrels did become involved and a few scows were destroyed, but the fire was quickly and efficiently extinguished.

July 9, 1917: Jersey City, New Jersey: Nine firefighters were overcome battling a fire at Halliday & Forrest Streets in an aniline dye and chemical plant. Fifty workers fled the building when a huge pot of benzoic acid boiled over, causing other chemicals to burst into flames. Clouds of heavy black noxious smoke poured from the two-story building as firefighters arrived. Despite warnings of acid fumes inside, three companies of firefighters moved into the burning building. Hampered by low water pressure and the toxic smoke, the initial teams of firefighters began dropping unconscious from the fumes. Firefighters moving in to rescue their down brothers also fell unconscious. One firefighter was overcome on the roof and fell to the ground. The fire was finally controlled after a difficult two-hour battle. In all, nine firefighters were knocked out by the smoke.

July 10, 1917: East Boothbay, Maine: Flames ignited by a hot rivet dropped inside the Rice Brothers ship building plant caused $150,000 in damage. A half-completed light ship, several beam trawlers, and a half-dozen yachts and launches owned by summer residents were destroyed.

July 12, 1917: Hoboken, New Jersey: A fire inside a five-story import warehouse filled with coconut oil and shells began burning fiercely, trapping three workers. Firefighters responding to the Jefferson Street building rescued the trapped people, as others stretched hoses from the new automobile fire engine. The battle commenced but was hampered as lengths of hose were burst by the powerful new engine. The burning oil-fed flames were so intense firefighters had to work a few minutes at a time in relays to protect the exposed warehouses nearby. It took the efforts of the entire fire department to contain the fire in two hours.

July 21, 1917: Lynbrook, New York: An elderly woman making breakfast for her brother accidentally ignited her clothing while using an oil stove. Her dog ran into the yard barking and howling and getting the attention of neighbors. The dog then returned into the burning home and attempted to pull the burning clothes from the down woman. When firefighters entered the blazing home, the dog was found dead beside his owner.

July 24, 1917: Long Beach, New York: A carelessly discarded cigarette fell into a ventilation flue and ignited a fire in the basement wine cellar of the Nassau Hotel at 7:45 a.m. Smoke began filling the building, driving the patrons, including the famed actress Sarah Bernhardt, outside. Bernhardt evacuated her fourth-floor suite accompanied by her manager and secretary and sat on the boardwalk talking quietly with friends and watching the fire department battle the fire. Hampered by low water pressure, the locals called for mutual aid and soon had help from Rockville Centre, Lynbrook, and Oceanside departments on hand. Flames jumped to a portion of the boardwalk and proved difficult to extinguish.

July 28, 1917: Edgewater Park, New Jersey: A heavy motor truck, carrying tanks filled with 900 gallons of gasoline, was struck by a train as it crossed the tracks near the freight station. The driver was critically injured, and the gasoline splashed across the tracks from one of the tanks ignited. This ignited some box cars parked on a nearby siding. Firefighters from Burlington and Beverley joined forces and battled the growing fire as railroad workers tried to clear the trains and tracks. A half hour in, two gasoline tanks exploded, wrecking everything in a 100-foot radius. One man was killed and several, including firefighters, were critically burned and injured.

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November 2017
Volume 12, Issue 11