New Orleans, LA Fires, Apr 1892



Two Little Children Burned Alive and Three Firemen Injured, Two Perhaps Fatally.

Four Cotton Presses and 63,000 Bales Burned – The Cigarette Does This Work – The Woman With the Coal Oil Can Starts the Others, and the Result Is 185 Houses Reduced to Ashes – Scores of Families Homeless – Total Loss About $3,000,000.

NEW ORLEANS, April 4. – The two largest fires ever known in New Orleans broke out almost simultaneously yesterday morning, destroying eleven squares of buildings, 63,000 bales of cotton and over $3,000,000 in property. Both fires were the result of carelessness and the great destruction was due to long drought, the dry condition of houses, cotton, etc. The strong breeze that was blowing and the insufficient size of the fire department, which was reorganized in January from the volunteer to the pay system, reducing the force to about one-tenth its former size, contributed to the spread of the conflagration. Besides the men had not become thoroughly accustomed to their new duties and were greatly overworked by two big fires.

Work of the Fatal Cigarette.
The first fire began at 10 a. m. in some cotton stored on the pavement in front of the Fireproof cotton press at Robin and Front streets. It is not unusual to allow cotton to be stored, but the stock on hand here just now is so large, over 500,000 bales, that the law was relaxed. Some one carelessly threw a lighted cigarette among the cotton. It smoldered, and finally burst into a blaze. The fire was a very small one at first, but the cotton was so dry that it spread rapidly. The flames in an incredibly short space of time communicated to the press, eating their way through the woodwork and down into the body of the press.

Three Firemen Seriously Hurt.
The flames next caught on the Shippers’ press in which there were 30,000 bales, and in half an hour it was licked up. The Orleans press containing 25,000 bales and the Independent press with 8,000 bales, were the next victims. Then the fireman gave up trying to save the old presses and they all went up in smoke and flames. The firemen made a desperate attempt to check the fire at the New Orleans press. They were working hard at it when the walls fell in, burying three fireman in the ruins, Captain Dupree, Lieutenant Shaw and Pipeman Bordeaux. The two last were seriously if not fatally injured.

Five Squares of Flames.
By this time the fire extended five squares in length, and communicated to a number of houses, barrooms, stores, etc. it produced a panic, and people for four or five squares around commenced moving out their furniture. The air was filled with wisps of blazing cotton, which threatened roofs everywhere. The Baldwin Agricultural works, three squares away, and the Louisiana rice mills, four squares away, were set on fire, but the flames were extinguished. Fortunately the section in which the cotton presses are located contains few large houses and many vacant lots, so that after the presses and the cotton were burned the fire died out chiefly for want of fuel.

List of the Presses Destroyed.
The presses destroyed were as follows: Fireproof, Penrose Brothers, managers, South Front and Robin streets; Shippers, Boyd & Herrick, proprietors, South Peters street; Independence Cotton Yard, South Peters street; Orleans Cotton press, Adam Lorch, manager, South Peters street. In these presses 63,000 bales of cotton were burned. The loss on the cotton at $35 a bale is $2,222,500. The presses were worth $750,000. Other property valued at $30,000 was destroyed, including 18 horses, bring the total loss up to $3,022,500. The Fireproof press was the property of the Seventh Street Orphan Asylum and the Shippers’ press of the Charity hospital. The presses and cotton were fully insured.