Brooklyn, NY Brownsville Section Tenement Fire, Oct 1911

Nine Are Missing In Brownsville Fire

Family of Seven and Two Children Not Found in Flame-Swept Tenement.

Babies Tossed To Street

One Woman Falls Headlong Attempting to Saver Her Brood-Gas Explosion Started Blaze.

The Brownsville section of Brooklyn was aroused shortly after midnight last night by a terrific explosion, which shook houses in the neighborhood of 317 Powell Street, on the corner of Blake Avenue. In the barber shop of Frank Moscowitz, on the ground floor of this building, a four-story brick tenement, a fire instantly started. It was there that gas had blown up.

Blake Avenue and Powell Street filled quickly with excited residents, many of them in scarcely more than their night clothes. From the windows of the burning tenement men and women were calling for help, scrambling down the fire escapes, and in their terror dropping their babies from the lower escapes into the street.

In a few moments the building was a furnace from cellar to roof, and then from the excited crowd the police learned that nine persons were unaccounted for. They were Jennie and Celie Zeildenstock, 10 and 7 years old, and David Cohen, his wife, and five small children. Whether or not these persons got out of the building is not known. No one appeared to have seen them, and friends from neighboring houses raised the cry that they had been killed. The firemen were unable to enter some parts of the building to investigate, for the fire was still beyond control an hour after it started.

What caused the gas explosion is not known, but the flames which followed it shot quickly up through the wells of the stairways and through the airshaft, apparently mushrooming our on the upper floors first and then working their way down to the street level.

Mrs. Annie Zeildenstock, a widow, lived on the top floor with four children, Nathan 11 years old; Bennie, 9, and the two little girls.

She was aroused, as were all the other tenants in the house, by the explosion, and not knowing what happened, started instantly to lead her small brood to the street. A blast of flames met her at the door of her flat, and she turned back to the front window, where there was a fire escape. Presently she was making her way slowly down, trying to keep track of her children.

The landings and stairways of the escapes were filling rapidly with excited men and women, and presently Mrs. Zeildenstock lost her little girls. An instant later she lost her footing and plunged down, from fire escape to fire escape, until she caught on the lower one. Max Bloomfield of 351 Powell Street saw her there and climbed up and lifted her down. The little boys were close behind her. The girls had disappeared.

Other tenants meantime had begun to drop their babies and smaller children from the fire escapes and Policemen Torpey and Godowin and Sergts. Plant and Gibbins of the Brownsville station were kept busy for several minutes catching the falling youngsters. Men and women jumped, too, from the lower escape, and presently Drs. Keyes, Fleming, Balligan, and Buckley from St. Mary’s Hospital, and Dr. Campbell from the Bradford Street Hospital had their hands full dressing the cuts and bruises of those who jumped.

Two alarms were turned in for the fire, and Chief Lally responded to the second alarm. The fire burned fiercely, and at 1 o’clock was not yet under control.

The New York Times, New York, NY 26 Oct 1911