Boston, MA Powars Block fire, Apr 1912


Penned In on the Fire Escapes Forty Feet in the Air.


Two Alarms and $20,000 Loss in the Market District.

Thirty frightened young women huddled along the heights of the third and fourth floor fire escapes in the rear of Powar's Block at 90-98 Blackstone street in the market district shortly after 4 o'clock last evening were rescued by Sergt. Donovan of the Hanover street police station, who ran up the fire escape and led them all down to the street.

Overcome by Smoke

Many of the girls were hysterical with fear and several of them were so overcome with the dense smoke as to be practically helpless. According to their stories after the fire, they were not aware that the flat part of the fire escape had an opening in it, with steps below, on which they could have descended.

The fire, which obtained terrific headway before discovered, did a damage estimated at over $20,000, and "necessitated" the sounding of the alarms before it could be placed under control.

Sergt. Donovan had been listing voters in the vicinity of the fire and discovered the smoke two blocks away as it was pouring from the fifth and sixth story windows. He sounded the alarm on his way to the building, and fortunately ran to the rear of the building, which opens on old Creek square, first, finding the thirty girls penned in masses forty feet in the air on the fire escapes, with the smoke pouring out all around them.

The fire apparently originated on the fifth floor above 90 and 92 Blackstone street, in a portion of the factory of the American Paper Box Company, and the girls who were driven out were employed by this concern and the Hyde Carpet Company on the sixth floor of the end facing Hanover street.

Damage Is Heavy

The water and smoke damage was exceptionally heavy, as the contents of the upper floors were of a nature that held the fire in check but caused intolerable heat and clouds of smoke that were visible miles away.

The occupants of the block were as follows: The Union Supply Company, meat supplies; Fenn & Co., sheet metal manufacturers; Mills & Hobbs, store fixtures; The American Paper Box Company; D. G. Wilkins, meats; Murdock & Silsbee, meats; Swain & Young, meats J. A. Goodrich, butter and eggs; J. S. Wyman & Co., pianos; L. J. Levy, tailor; Poleski & Co., tailors; The Hyde Carpet Company, and J. A. Crivello, fruit dealer.

The last establishment is in the basement, and the firemen had to batter down the doors with axes in order to try and reach the gas meter, which connected with the entire piping of the building. The fire had melted the lead pipes in the upper floors and the fumes made entrance into the different floors even more impossible than at first.

The gas company employees finally fought their way through the smoke to the meter and broke two wrenches trying to shut off the main, which was apparently corroded.

The Boston Journal, Boston, MA 3 Apr 1912