Brooklyn, NY Brownsville Tenement Collapse, Jan 1935

2 Killed~43 Hurt at Fire In Brooklyn as Stair Falls

Firemen Thrown Into Water-Filled Cellar From Second Floor of Brownsville Tenement - Rescuers Chop Hole Through Wall

Two firemen were killed, thirteen
others were taken to hospitals and
about thirty more sustained slight
injuries shortly after 7 o'clock last
night when a stairway collapsed
beneath them as they were putting
out a fire in a four-story tenement
at 305 Chester Street, near Dumont
Avenue, in the Brownsville section
of Brooklyn.
More than a score of the firefighters
were thrown from the
stairway between the first and second
floors into the cellar, which
had between two and three feet of
water that had been poured on to
the blaze. Others clung desperately
to the walls, or barely managed
to save themselves by leaping from
the stairs to the second floor.
Pinned beneath the wreckage of
the ruined stairway and the debris
that had fallen from the upper
floors, those in the cellar were in
a serious plight. Some of them
had great difficulty keeping their
faces above the water level, while
smoke rapidly accumulated in the
cellar and threatened to suffocate
While their fellows worked desperately
to break a hole into the
brick wall of the upper part of the
cellar, a motorcycle policeman sped
to the Roman Catholic Church of
Our Lady of Loretto, on Pacific
Street, about half a mile away. He
pounded on the door of the rectory
and called for a priest.
In his cassock, without stopping
for hat or overcoat, the Rev. Cyrus
Tortora, assistant pastor of the
church, hurried out at the alarm.
He jumped into the motorcycle sidecar
and the policeman, sounding
his siren all the way, sped him to
the scene o.f the fire.

Jan. 2, 1935 edition of The New York Times