New York, NY Furniture Factory Fire, Mar 1904


Department Unable to Save Horner & Co.'s Factory.


Mounted Police Called On to Drive Back Great Crowds Composed Principally of Women.

The failure of the water pressure is responsible, according to the police and firemen, for the destruction by fire yesterday of the furniture factory of R. J. Horner & Co. at 61 - 65 West Twenthy-fourth Street. Four alarms had to be turned in before the firemen could get the flames under control, and even then Battalion Chief Binns had to transfer two engines to Seventh Avenue and Twenty-first Street to pump water to supply the boilers in the engines that were working directly on the fire.

An explosion of benzine on the second floor of the building at 10:30 o'clock is believed to have started the fire. Persons in the neighborhood said the explosion was plainly heard for a considerable distance and was immediately followed by a sheet of flame that burst through the windows on Twenty-fourth Street.

When Water Tower No. 2 reached the fire it was placed in front of the burning building. Six engines were attached to it, but after the tower had been hoisted it was discovered that the united efforts of all the engines were unable to drive the feeble stream into the building. Lieut. Callaghy, who was in charge of the tower, was on it, and while trying to get the apparatus to work he had his hair singed and then his coat caught fire. A stream of water was turned on him and he was able to continue at work. The water towere also caught fire, and finally had to be removed to a safe distance.

Chief Duane soon after he arrived telephoned the state of affairs to Fire Headquarters, and from there communication was had with the Water Department. Soon afterward the pressure was increased, and an hour later the flames were under control, but not until the building had been wrecked. The loss is estimated at from $50,000 to $75,000, covered fully by insurance.

The ppor water supply was the subject of much comment in the vicinity of the fire, which was in the heart of the shopping district, and on all sides was heard censure by the businessmen in the district, who are now practically a unit for the establishment of the proposed salt-water mains.

The burning building is only a few doors west of Sixth Avenue, and business along that thoroughfare was at a standstill for nearly two hours. The loss in trade to the shopkeepers is estimated to have been very heavy. Street car traffic in the affected district was also at a standstill, and the cars were blocked for nearly three-quarters of a mile on either side.

When the fire engines began to arrive thousands of shoppers hurried to the scene of the fire, so that when the reservoir from six stations arrived they found wedged in Sixth Avenue, for a bock deep on either side of Twenty-fourth Street, thousands of people, a majority of whom were wmen. It was found impossible to keep the crowd in check, and Inspector Walsh sent for a detail of the mounted men from Fifth Avenue to clear the streets.

Two men were injured as a result of the fire. They were George Linder of Fort Lee and B. F. Sherwood of 202 Penn Street, Brooklyn. They had to jump from the third floor of the factory to the roof of the two-story building adjoining. Linder had both legs broken and Sherwood was badly bruised about the body. Both were taken to Bellevue Hospital. Anne Helwig, eighteen years old, living at 454 West Fifty-second Street, was on the third floor. She became hysterical, and had to be dropped ten feet to the same roof by three of the men employed in the building. She escaped without serious injury.

A fire horse was killed in a collision between Engine Nos. 16 and 72 at Twelfth Street and Sixth Avenue. Driver rann of No. 72, who was forced to jump for his life, was painfully bruised, but was able to take his engine to the fire with the two horses that escaped. In Maillard's candy factory, across the street from the Horner factory, 175 girls were at work. When the Superintendent of the candy works saw the extent of the fire he declared work off for the day and ordered the employes out of the building. Other establishments in the vicinity did likewise.

After the fire was under control Battalion Chief Binns said:

"Ordinarily lines from four engines will give a pressure of eighty-five pounds at the nozzle of the water tower. The normal pressure of water in this district is about twenty-five or thirty pounds. I asked Deputy Chief Duane about the pressure in the district, and he said it had always been sufficient. He could not understand it.

"When Engines No. 26 and No. 1, the first to arrive on the first alarm, hooked up to the hydrants nearest the fire on Twenty-fourth Street and the men had stretched the hose, they found they could get no water. They had to move over to Seventh Avenue, and that caused a big delay."

During the fire Inspector McClusky sent forty detectives in a hurry to the shopping district to take care of the crowd. All watched for pickpockets and petty thieves, but not a robbery was reported. Commissioner McAdoo was asked if this was an order of his own, and he said it was not. He considered it, he said, "excellent police work," and praised Inspector McClusky highly for it.

The New York Times, New York, NY 20 Mar 1904