Newark, NJ Fire, Nov 1910
23 DIE, 40 HURT IN NEWARK FIRE
Many Other Women and Girls, Caught in a Flame-Swept Factory, Missing.
BUILDING WAS A FIRE TRAP
Two Fire Escapes on it Useless, and Victims, Ablaze, Leaped Out of High Windows.
SOME IMPALED ON PICKETS
Firemen's Nets Smashed to the Ground with the Weight of Plunging Women.
FIRE ESCAPES BLOCKED
Scores Fought in Vain to Reach the Ladders the Firemen Threw Up to Them.
A TEN-MINUTE-LONG HORROR
Roof and Floors Fell Within Half an Hour, Carrying Down Dead and Dying---Defective Law Alone to Blame.
Twenty-three women and girls were killed, at least forty were injured, and an unknown number are missing as the result of a fire which destroyed a factory building at High and Orange Streets, Newark, in a few minutes yesterday morning. The building was fifty years old and was saturated with oil. The flames spread with great rapidity, and in a few seconds after the first alarm flames were bursting from every window.
The two or three hundred women employed on the four floors of the factory were panic stricken. It is likely enough that if they had kept their presence of mind more of them might have been saved. But in any case there must have been a terrible loss of life, as there were only two fire escapes of the ordinary type. That is all the law requires, so the Newark authorities say. Therefore the horror cannot be laid at the door of any one in particular.
The flames burst out just in that park of the building where the fire escapes were. The girls on the fourth floor among whom all the deaths occurred, seem to have assumed at once that they could not pass the third floor, where the fire began, and found that they were also unable to descend by the iron ladder.
They ran to the windows and hung out, six or seven at each of them, shouting and imploring for help. A station of the Fire Department was actually across the street from the factory, but so rapidly did the building go up that the men there had no time to get their apparatus out. Even as they harnessed their horses and rushed out with ladders the end came. First one then another girl hurled herself from a window. Most of them seemed to have hesitated till their clothes were actually alight, and then with despairing cries they jumped.
Jumped Out All Aflame.
From every window all over the building a stream of women began to fall through the air, A few let themselves down from the window sills and hung for a second or two before they let go. Others sprang out hand in hand with companions. Here and there a woman, all in flame, was seen plunging through the air, and as one went another took her place at the window with her own piteous appeal for rescue.
But as they threw themselves out there was worse to come. The firemen did what they could. They rushed across the street and held their nets beneath the windows, but could not stand the strain put on them. There were not enough nets to put under all the windows, and sometimes three or four would come plunging into a net and smash it to the ground.
At the eastern end of the building, just where most of the girls had run to get as far as possible away from the blaze, was a picket gate, barring a carriage way into the factory. It stood open yesterday and woman after woman, as she came hurtling[sic] down, alighted upon its sharp iron spikes. The injuries they inflicted were ghastly to the last degree. Arms, bodies, and faces were ripped up, and it seemed to witnesses who saw those impaled that it had been almost a happier fate to be caught by the flames.
Even those who struck the pavement were scarcely more fortunate. The fall of four stories was too much for the strength of their bodies. Injuries too shocking for description were received and the bodies of those picked up were crushed almost out of all human semblance. For the moment, however, there was no time to attend to these. As a woman struck, if she gave no sign of life, there she lay. Firemen, policemen, and bystanders had other work to do. The dead were left in heaps, while every nerve was strained to help the living.
On the Fire Escapes.
On the fire escapes the women from the lower stories were crowding till they could not move downward. There was imminent danger that they would be pushed off by those who came after them and the flames were licking at their heels from every window. The firemen ran into the building as far as they could penetrate made their way to the second floor, and pushed their way through the struggling women to the fire escapes. There they took their stand and passed down women after woman as long as any were in danger.
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