Boston, MA Fireworks Emporium Fire, Jun 1899


Fatal Conflagration in a Boston Factory.

Lives Lost During the Discharge of Bombs and Rockets.

The fireworks emporium of Heyer Brothers on Sumner street, Boston, Mass., took fire about 5 P. M. in the evening, and by the time the flames were extinguished five of the employes met death. Two were badly injured by jumping and $100,000 worth of property was destroyed.

Heyer Brothers occupy the three upper stories of the building and part of the ground floor, Browning & Co., millinery, occupying the other part of the ground floor. The fire started in the back part of the lower floor, among the fireworks. This room, as well as the three floors above, was stocked with a miscellaneous assortment of fireworks destined for the Fourth of July trade. There were firecrackers, large and small, bombs, Roman candles, rockets and torpedoes, together with a large stock of banners, flags, uniforms, torches, etc.

The firm employed twenty or twenty-five men and boys, and were busy with their holiday trade. They carried a stock of $100,000 worth of fireworks and $50,000 to $60,000 worth of fancy goods. A large portion of the stock is ruined, although the loss is not total. The firm is well insured.

The discharge of the fireworks on the lower floor gave an impetus to the flames, which the employes were powerless to impede. What with the bombs and the rockets, the big No. 10 forty-cent crackers, the neighborhood was awakened by a series of reports and detonations which suggested the rattle of musketry, while now and then an extra heavy bomb, exploding in a mass of other material with a dull report, gave an idea of light artillery firing in the distance. The flames ate through the ceiling into the upper floors and then ensued another series of reports, mingled with the unmistakable sizzling of imprisoned rockets. Through all the dense, murky smoke poured out of windows and through the roof, obscuring the sky for blocks around, and giving forth the choking odor of sulphur [sic] and powder.

Blinded by the thickening clouds of smoke, seven unlucky employes of Heyer Brothers were unable to escape. They found themselves in the midst of a running fire of discharging rockets, bombs and crackers which shot through the limited confines of the building, now and again striking human targets with deadly aim. Despite the sickening fumes of the liberated missiles, CHARLES F. CALLAHAN and THOMAS GAGE succeeded in groping up the stairway to the third floor. Here they jumped from the windows to the street. CALLAHAN struck an awning and bounded headlong to the pavement; his legs, his arm and his back were broken and his clothes had been burned almost to the skin.