New York, NY Water Street Factory Fire, Feb 1904


Croker Takes Charge at Blaze in Water Street Factory.

His Men Take Ten Minutes to Get Dangerous Flames Under Control-Near-by Calcium Lights Used.

The first big fire that has occurred since Fire Chief Croker was reinstated by the courts was that which started on the third floor of the six-story building 264 and 266 Water Street, at 6 o'clock last night. The building occupied a big portion of the block bounded by Water Street, Peck Slip, Dover, and Pearl Streets, and was used by Bramhall, Dean & Co. as a stove and cooking utensil factory.

Chief Croker responded to the first alarm, and by the time he reached the scene found that a second alarm had been turned in. As the fire had spread up through the building the Chief turned in a third and then a fourth alarm, bringing as large a force of firemen as that which had been sent from this city to the Baltimore fire.

The searchlight engine was put to work with two water towers, and several streams were turned on the adjacent buildings, in one of which was stored large quantities of benzine. Within ten minutes after the Chief's arrival he had the fire under control. The three upper floors of the building were wrecked.

But it proved to be a spectacular fire while it lasted, and attracted thousands of men and women who were on their way to Brooklyn. The sheet of flame which leaped through the roof illuminated the neighborhood for several blocks, so that the passengers on the cars crossing the bridge were enabled to see every move made by the firemen who worked from the Water Street side of the burning building. Then the rear of the building was illuminated by calcium lights which were pressed into service in the rear windows of a lithographing establishment facing on Pearl Street, while the searchlight engine sent a stream of light into the dark corners.

Battalion Chief Howe, who led the New York firemen to Baltimore, was seen at work on a firescape balcony on the front of the burning building, and some one in the crowd who noticed him spread the news, until everybody gathered about the fire and cheered for him, calling him by name. They next recognized the firemen of Engines Nos. 7 and 12, who had been at Baltimore, and proceded[sic] to cheer for these men.

While the crowd was cheering the police were kept busy turning the tenants out of the tall tenements along Pearl Street, just in the rear of the burning building. Many of these tenants elbowed the police and fought their way back to their apartments to rescue personal property, which they carried to the street.

Chief Croker was asked how he had come to make use of the calcium lights. He said that he had been passing through a room in the Hart-Von Arx lithographing establishment, and seeing the calcium tanks there, asked the firm for permission to use them. In speaking of the work of the searchlight engine, which he had devised, the Chief said that it hadn't worked as well as it did formerly for the reason that it practically had been in retirement while he was away from the department.

The New York Times, New York, NY 12 Feb 1904