Brooklyn, NY Brownsville Area Furniture Truck Fire, May 1905

Fire, Race, Runaway, Delight Brownsville

Triple Event Begins When Furniture Truck Catches Fire.

Patrol Wagon in Pursuit

Frightened Team Dashes Through Streets and Is Finally Caught in a Vacant Lot.

Brownsville yesterday had an event that combined the attractions of a fire, a runaway, and a horse race.

It took place at an opportune time, when the exemplary youngsters of Brownsville were leaving school. A big truck loaded with furniture was standing before the furniture store of Benjamin Glass, at Pitkin Street and Rockaway Avenue. Israel Dubisky, the driver, entered the store for a moment.

There hung about the wagon as he was loading it a group of children. What they did is not clear, but when Dubisky reached the door again the truck, furniture and all, was disappearing in the distance enveloped in fire and smoke, and the children were yelling with delight.

About the time that the team ran away a patrol wagon filled with policemen had started for the New Lots playground, which is at Newport Avenue and Christopher Street. The patrol wagon was drawn by a bay horse called Worry, which has a reputation for speed. The patrol wagon was about two blocks behind the furniture wagon when the team bolted, and Driver John Tomford began to urge Worry in pursuit.

However unequal to distancing Worry the furniture team might have been on any ordinary occasion, they made a very fine showing spurred on by the flames crawling closer and closer every minute.

The race led along Pitkin Street. It took only a block or two of running before the speed of the horses had fanned the burning furniture into a furious flame, the tip of which rose to the height of the houses along the way.

For seven blocks along Pitkin Street the chase continued. At Powell Street the frenzied team turned south. The wagon was almost thrown against the buildings, but righted itself again. At this point Tomford, driving the patrol wagon, gained a little. Pedestrians and children shouted and the policemen in the wagon held tightly to their seats, their helmets bobbing like corks in rough water.

At Sutton Avenue Tomford was neck and neck with the runaway team, and telling Policeman O’Hara, who was in the wagon, to take the reins, he grabbed the bridle of the near runaway horse and hung on.

At the corner of Powell Street and Sutton Avenue there is a vacant lot and into this the runaway team swerved. Shit off there and through the efforts of Tomford they were brought to a stop. The burning wagon, however, set fire to a fence, and for a time there was danger that this blaze would communicate to a tenement house which stands on the next lot.

By the time the firemen had arrived there was little left of the wagon but the wheels and the pole. The horses were badly singed.

The New York Times, New York, NY 20 May 1905