Brooklyn, NY Dance Hall Fire, Aug 1923



By Telegraph to The Freeman.
New York, Aug. 21. -- Two firemen were killed and 27 injured early today when the roof and one of the walls of the three-story building housing the New Plaza dance hall, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, collapsed as fire was sweeping the structure.
The building was an old land mark, and for years was the old Masonic Temple. About fifty firemen were in the structure fighting the blaze when the roof and walls collapsed without warning.
The old structure had been gutted. Firemen had been ordered inside to extinguish the last remaining sparks. Then the crash came. With a roar the roof went down, carrying with it one of the side walls.
As the great shower of debris came down, burying the firemen beneath the wreckage, those outside the structure became a maddened mob of rescuers. Firemen, police and by-standers, unmindful of their own danger, plunged into the hot ruins. The rescuers dug and kicked at the debris to rescue the buried firemen.
Calls for assistance brought ambulances and physicians to the scene.
Reports of a great loss of life began to spread. One report had it that twenty firemen had been killed. Another that eleven bodies had been recovered.
As the rescuers dug at the ruins they soon uncovered many of the imprisoned firemen.
Hope had been abandoned for six men known to have been on the roof when it caved in. It seemed impossible that these men could have escaped from the seething furnace into which they had seemingly plunged. But one by one they reported to their commanders, their eyes full of sweat and grime as they begged for news of their comrades.
Deputy Chief O'Hara, in charge of the Brooklyn fire forces, was saved by his chaffeur, who dragged him from harm's way in the nick of time.
As fireman after fireman was rescued hope began to dawn that no one had lost his life. This hope was soon abandoned, however, when another rescue party, digging at a pile of hot bricks, came across the bodies of two firemen. They had been burned almost beyond recognition. The victims, members of the same engine company, were RAYMOND FARRELL and JAMES SULLIVAN.
The fire started shortly after midnight. Within an hour the interior of the building was a blaze from cellar to roof. Hard work by the firemen prevented the flames spreading to a row of tenements. Dense smoke hampered the firemen. Four alarms were turned in. Police reserves were summoned. Tenants were ordered from nearby homes. Trolley traffic was tied up. The damage was estimated at $250,000.

Kingston Daily Freeman New York 1923-08-21