Providence, RI Calendar Building Fire, Nov 1882



PROVIDENCE, Nov. 22.---The corrected list of casualties from the fire here Tuesday noon give three deaths, one other case that will terminate fatally, one that is in a critical condition, and seventeen badly burned and bruised. It is learned that in a portion of the four-story building where the fire occurred there was not a single hydrant, a line of hose, a sprinkler, or a fire-escape; that by mistake the firemen played into an open doorway from which smoke was rolling out, thinking that they were playing upon the fire, whereas in reality the water went no further than a wooden partition on the other side of which the fire was burning fiercely. The distance from the ground to the windows out of which the terror-stricken men and girls jumped was 37½ feet. The length of two of the ladders, which were discarded by the laddermen in order that the heavy fire-escape might be run up, was 36 feet.

One of the oldest members of the department, an experienced ladderman, said to a reporter: "There is not and cannot be any reasonable excuse for this terrible catastrophe. The first thing which the laddermen ought to have done was to have made an effort to use their ladders, leaving the patent truck and fire-escape as a last resort. The two large ladders could have been placed under two of the windows, and from the top of these two hook ladders could have been fastened to the sills of the windows. Then an 18-foot ladder could have been raised against the little flat roof building adjoining the burning structure, and from this roof another 18-foot ladder could have been used to reach the end windows. It seems strange that some of the laddermen could not have thought to unship one of the coils of rope which they carry for just this purpose, and, running up the ladders, have tossed one end to the men, and instructed them to make it fast to some of the machinery, and slide down the rope. Here were four ways of getting out the poor people, not one of which was adopted. The false economy of cutting down the number of permanent men on the 'Skinner' truck has had its effect. The city ordinances allow the Chief Engineer to put 12 men on that truck, and they should have been there. If the quota is filled in the future as it should be the men can, if their services are required in putting up ladders, be placed on the hose to assist the regular hosemen. Less jealousy in the department would be better for its usefulness."

An official investigation was began this afternoon by a Coroner's jury, of which the Hon. Thomas A. Doyle is foreman.

The New York Times, New York, NY 23 Nov 1882


PROVIDENCE, Nov. 23.---The Coroner's inquest on the bodies of the victims of the Callendar Building fire was resumed to-night. James H. Hart, the tinsmith who had the naphtha vapor stove in Melvin's dye-house, testified that Melvin, without saying what he was using to clean the clothes with, was less than 10 feet distant from him. Dipping a number of garments into a pan of naphtha, he came quite close to the witness and hung the garments upon a rack to dry. The result was that the vapor from the dripping naphtha communicated with the blaze in the little stove which Hart was using and in an instant the whole place was on fire. It was shown by the evidence of this witness that Melvin and his assistants left the shop, and that Hart was the last one who remained to fight the flames.

Andrew J. Santra swore that long after the people in Grant's jewelry shop had got out in safety, and after the fire had gained so much headway that the staircase was filled with smoke, he crept up the stairs on his hands and knees and went into Robinson's shop to alarm the people at work there. To his utter astonishment they were all at work, having no knowledge of the fire whatever. When he went out of the door to go out to the street the flames were pouring out of Melvin's shop-door, up the stairs, and through the scuttle overhead, so that the fire-escape which runs up to this same scuttle was rendered useless. He had to walk through this fire to get to the ground. The inquiry will be resumed at 7:30 o'clock Friday night.

The New York Times, New York, NY 24 Nov 1882

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