Boston, MA Fatal Merrimac Street Fire, Feb 1898


Six Members of the City's Fire Department Perish.


The Building Where the Disaster Occurred Had Been Repaired in a Bungling Manner – Roof Collapsed and the Fire-Fighters Were Hurled In the Ruins – Fixing the Blame for the Tragedy.

BOSTON, Mass. (Special). -- Six firemen, including a district chief, a captain and a lieutenant, were killed at a fire here, which burned out the interior of a five-story building on Merrimac street, occupied by C. W. Bent & Co., manufacturers of beds and bedding.
The dead are:
J. F. EGAN, district chief;
JAMES VICTORY, captain Engines Nos. 38 and 39;
GEORGE J. GOTWALD, lieutenant Engine No. 39;
PATRICK H. DISEN, hoseman;
JOHN J. MULHERN, fireman;
W. J. WALSH, hoseman.
Four other firemen were buried in the ruins, but they escaped with more of less serious injuries. Lieutenant JOHN J. McCARTHY, of Protective No. 1, was slightly bruised by falling bricks.
The fire is supposed to have started in the rear of the building from a live electric wire and was nearly under control, when the water supply gave out. The men of Engine No. 7 were on the fourth floor, having entered by a window, while those of Nos. 38 and 39, which is a double company, were on the second floor. Suddenly a rear section of the roof collapsed, carrying down the floors to the basement and burying the firemen beneath the wreck.
The efforts of the firemen were directed toward the wreckage under which the men had been caught. The progress of the flames was checked in that direction, but it was an hour after the accident before the work of removing the debris could be started.
The first to be taken out was SHEA, who was found pinned between the timber, about midway between the first and second floors, having fallen from the fourth floor. Captain FARRITY was found within a few feet of SHEA pinned under some heavy timbers, and was brought out in a semi-conscious condition. CONWAY had been in sight of the rescuing party for some time. He was pinned under some timbers, which held his legs in such a manner that the timbers had to be sawed through before he could be released. DOHERTY was then rescued. His left leg was utterly useless.
As Captain VICTORY and Chief EGAN were lifted there were some signs of life. But EGAN died on the way to the hospital and VICTORY about ten minutes after reaching there. The four men, remaining under the debris were found a few minutes later. They were all dead.
The contents of the building, valued at $30,000, are a total loss. The damage to the building itself will bring the total up to $75,000. This is partially covered by insurance. The Evangelical Baptist Benevolent and Missionary Society and the Tremont Temple Association own the structure.
Captain VICTORY leaves a widow and three children: Hoseman DISEN a widow and five children, and Lieutenant GOTWALD, a widow and five children; District Chief EGAN leaves a son and daughter; Hoseman WALSH was twenty-eight years old and lived with his mother; JOHN MULHERN was a single man, twenty-eight years of age, and has a brother in the Fire Alarm Department.
JAMES H. ROBERTS, of the Roberts Iron Company, who occupied the building from 1872 up to four years ago states that the structure was damaged by fire in 1876. The girders on all the floor and the cross-beams supporting the roof were badly damaged, some almost burned through.
“Instead of substituting substantial supports,” said MR. ROBERT, “the charred ties and beams were allowed to remain and were covered with matted boards. I got out of the building because I feared the heavy machinery on the upper floor was likely to come down upon me at any moment.”
Deacon G. W. CHIPMAN of the Tremont Temple Church, trustees of the burned property, said that the income from the property has been used for local missionary work.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1898-02-11