Washington, DC Commercial Buildings Burn, May 1896

FIERCE, FIRE RAGES.

LIVES ALSO LOST IN THE FLAMES.

SEVERAL FIREMEN CRUSHED TO DEATH UNDER FALLING WALLS IN WASHINGTON.

Washington, May 19 -- Fire swept away a whole block of commercial buildings opposite the Smithsonian Institute soon after 8 o'clock last evening. The lives of at least six firemen were crushed out by falling walls. The loss will exceed $200,000. The buildings covering the block adjoining the Centre Market constituted practically the entire commission and wholesale produce business of Washington, and while not of great value, their contents burned so fiercely that a great portion of the residents from all parts of the city were attracted to the scene of the conflagration. From 7 to 8 o'clock the city was visited by one of the most terrific thunder storms in years and it is thought lightning traveling on telegraph wires entered a Postal Telegraph sub-station and started the flames, which spread rapidly through the highly inflammable materials of the building on Louisiana avenue, Ninth, Tenth and D streets. In a few minutes, under general alarm orders, the entire fire department commenced its efforts to check the fire's spread, but exploding barrels of kerosene and gasoline drove them off and led them to direct their energies to preventing the flames from crossing streets to neighboring squares.
While the firemen of No. 8 engine were working a hose through one of the old buildings the roof fell without warning, burying them in the ruins. The wrecked building at once began burning furiously and any attempt at rescue was beyond question. Not until an hour later had the flames sufficiently subsided at this point for the firemen to begin clearing away the debris. The three men, JOE MULHALL, TOM DONALDSON and KENNEDY, still alive but scorched and crushed beyond all hope of recovery, were taken out and removed to the Providence hospital. This morning the firemen came upon another body. Four others are still known to be in the ruins and are being searched for.

The Trenton Evening Times New Jersey 1896-05-19