Greenspoint, NY Box Factory Fire, Sept 1898

Went Down with a Building Which Collapsed During a Fire at a Greenpoint Box Factory.

The great sawdust pit building of Edward C. Smith's box factory, in Box Street, Greenpoint, was destroyed by fire yesterday, and the lives of several firemen were imperiled by the collapse of the structure. The factory Occupies an area of ground extending from Paige Avenue to Oakland Street and from Newton Creek and Ash Street to Box Street. All the buildings are of brick, and two stories high, while the sawdust pit was of brick and frame.

The fire was discovered by Frederick Miller, a stableman, who first smelled smoke and traced it to the pit. He shouted for help, and while one man rang in an alarm at a firebox near by, half a dozen others assisted Miller in turning loose the forty-two horses in the stable.

In the meantime the flames had enveloped the entire lower part of the building, and when the firemen arrived great clouds of suffocating smoke were rolling from the pit. Three additional alarms were turned in, which brought more than a dozen engines and truck companies, as well as two fireboats, to the scene.

Hook and Ladder Company No. 6, whose quarters are in Greenpoint Avenue, raised a ladder to the roof of the pit from Box Street, and six firemen, among them John Gillespie, the assistant foreman of Engine No. 30, and John Rourke and John Wall, dragged up a line of hose. The flood of water poured into the building caused the sawdust to swell, and slowly the braces holding the walls and roof together gave way, and an explosion in the sawdust led to the final and sudden collapse of the building.

The firemen went down with the bricks and timbers, but miraculously escaped serious injury. Truck No. 6, driven by Charles Morton, was smashed to pieces, but Morton saved himself by jumping under a small extension.

The brisk wind blew some of the sparks through the blowers connecting the sawdust pit with the shaving loft, and in a second that building also was on fire. James Burke of 931 Manhattan Avenue who was assisting the firemen, had his left leg fractured by the nozzle of a hose which burst.

While on the way to the fire the team of Engine No. 13 became unmanageable on Greenpoint Avenue, and ran into a large plate glass window of Sigmond Heller's saloon. One of the animals was cut and bruised but not disabled.

The cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained. The damage is estimated at $12,000.

The New York Times, New York, NY 12 Sept 1898