Fort Washington, NY Fire, Nov 1870


The Woods Along the Hudson River Railroad Burned - Imminent Peril of Private Residences and Other Property - Sparks from Locomotive the Cause.

The locomotives of the Hudson River Railroad seem to have a special spite against the magnificent woods which border the track at Fort Washington and its immediate vicinity. Scarcely an autumn passes by, when the dry dead leaves strew the ground in profusion, that a fire is not caused among them by the sparks from a passing engine. Last year a very large conflagration occurred in the woods by this means, and a great deal of valuable property was seriously damaged by it. A locomotive, in passing that portion of the woods which extend from the Heights near Mr. Charles O'Conor's residence to the track, paid the usual yearly compliment to them on Thursday afternoon, and the consequence was quite an extensive fire. The wind at the time was blowing furiously from the river, and thus fanned the spark to such a degree that, long before any person discovered them, the woods were wrapped in flames for a distance of 800 or 900 feet from the track. Mr. John Edwards was the first person who became aware of what had occurred, his attention being attracted to the fire by the roaring of the flames. He at once set to work, with the assistance of several other men, and endeavored to head the fire off by digging up the earth between it and the two private residences in the neighborhood, and by clearing away the brushwood and leaves that covered the ground. The flames steadily crept over most of this space, however, and defied all their efforts. The firemen finally arrived on the scene, and with the aid of several policemen, who worked energetically, the progress of the fire was stayed. It was found impossible to use the engine, owing to a want of a sufficient supply of water, and the men had to do the best they could with pails, which they filled from a small cistern near by. The fire was not extinguished until four o'clock, two hours after it had been discovered. It broke out again about seven o'clock, and the men did not get the upper hand of it until ten o'clock.

It was feared at one time, which the conflagration was at its highest, that it would extend to the residences near by. The wind being very high drove the flames directly toward them, and but for the activity displayed by the firemen and the police they would have been destroyed. Fires in the woods, which extend from Carmansville to Inwood, have become so frequent within past years that the residents of the neighborhood are beginning to lose patience with the railroad company. Had the fire which broke out on Thursday occurred at dead of night, when the residents were asleep, the disaster might have been a very serious one.

The New York Herald, New York, NY 12 Nov 1870