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brought the entire fire department to the scene. Attempts to
push hoses into the blazing basement and first floor proved
impossible. Ladders were rushed to the dormitory windows.
Within minutes, 19 girls climbed down to safety. The boys’
dormitory would prove more difficult, being directly above the
spreading fire. Firefighters climbed in through windows and
searched deep onto the smoke-filled floor. Scores of unconscious
boys were carried to safety. On one last trip into the choking
smoke, firefighters found three additional boys unconscious in a
closet. In all, 26 boys were rescued. Amazingly, all the children
were rescued. Five adults perished in the flames.
December 27, 1916: New York, New York: Ammonia fumes
released in a smoke-filled sub-cellar 30 feet underground
caused more than a dozen firefighters to fall unconscious.
The fire was inside the Park & Tilford Building on Columbus
Avenue and 72nd Street. Exploding carboys spread the fumes,
knocking out the members of Engine Companies 56 and 74
and Ladder Company 25. These firefighters were rescued by
other members of their companies as Rescue 1 was special
called. The new rescue company donned smoke helmets and
plunged into the noxious fumes to search for down firefighters and to extinguish the flames. John McElligott, captain of
Rescue 1, was also knocked out when he remained after his air
supply ran out. Amazingly, no lives were lost, but many firefighters suffered lasting effects from the smoke and fumes.
December 31, 1916: Halifax, Quebec, Canada: Forty-five
female patients were killed as fire swept through a mental health
facility. The large building, run by the Quebec Sisters of
Charity, was filled with 180 female mental patients. The sisters
had great difficulty moving the excited patients to safety.
Firefighters, who responded from a long distance, could do little
as strong winds rapidly spread the fire. In all, 135 patients were
saved by the sisters. The building was destroyed.
Paul Hashagen is a 40-year veteran of the fire service. He retired from the Fire
Department of New York (FDNY) after 25 years of service, with 20 of those years in
Rescue Company 1. Hashagen is a former chief of the Freeport (NY) Fire Department and is still a member of Truck Company 1. He has written several books
and numerous stories on the history of the fire service including Fire Department
City of New York: The Bravest; An Illustrated History 1865-2002; and One Hundred
Years of Valor: Rescue Company 1 New York City Fire Department Rescue 1915-
2015. Visit his Facebook page at Paul Hashagen-author.
To read more from Paul Hashagen, visit www.firefighternation.com/
On one last trip
into the choking smoke,
three additional boys
unconscious in a closet.