Brooklyn, NY Fatal House Fire, Jan 1924


Trapped in Homes as Two
Three-Story Houses Burn With
Amazing Swiftness


Workman Scattered Flames by
Running Through Hallway
With Blazing Can of Gasoline

A fire caused by the ignition of a
gallon can of gasoline from a torch
used in thawing out a frozen water
pipe, cost five persons their lives and
virtually destroyed the two ancient
three-story frame houses at 845 and 847
Pacific Street, corner of Vanderbilt
Avenue, Brooklyn, yesterday afternoon.
Last night after being questioned at
the Richmond Hill Police Staipn,
Anthony McCabe of 1325 33rd Street,
Richmond Hill, who had been using the
gas was charged with homicide.
Two alarms were sent in and — although
the fire was out in less than an hour — so
rapidly did it mount the narrow stairway
and mushroom through the two
buildings that nothing more than a
framework of the two upper floors remained,
and of the six persons who had
been in the building, five — two women
and three children — had perished.
The dead are:
Mrs. MARY FENNELL, 84-years old, who
lived in No. 845.
Mrs. BERTHA ESLER, 28-years old, who
lived in 845.
STEPHEN ESLER, 5-years old. son of Mrs.
CATHERINE ESLER, 12-years old.
HAROLD ESLER, 6-years old.
George Esler, the father of Catherine
and Harold; and the father-in-law of
Mrs. Bertha Esler, was taken to the
Jewish Hospital in a serious condition
from burns and possible internal injuries.
The scream of a woman and the burst
of smoke from the hallway of 847 was
the first alarm to persons in the street
that the building was on fire. At the
rear of the hallway of 845, where the
fire started, was a door connecting with
the house adjoining, and it was because
of this that the flames ran through and
caught in the hall way of that house and
worked up through the interior of both
The ground floor of 845, the corner
house, was occupied as a candy and
cigar store by Michael Niccio. The apartment
above was vacant. On the top floor lived
Frank Fennell and his family.
The street floor of the next house
was occupied as an upholstery shop by
Arthur W. Brady. Above was an apartment
occupied by Frank Monte, his wife and their
children. The Esler family lived on the top
floor. Mrs. Monte and her child got out safely .

Police First to Arrive

Two small boys are said to have
turned in the alarm, but among the first
to arrive were Police Sergeant Reiff and
Policeman Patrick McMullen, of the
Grand Avenue station, who were on automobile
patrol duty. They found the interior of the buildings
a mass of flames. As the first of the fire fighters
arrived, George Esler was seen to stagger
to a window of 847. He fell half across the
sill and the blanket of smoke
that poured out shut him from view.
When the wind shifted the smoke, it
was seen that he was balanced on the sill.
The firemen seized a net and raced
toward the building. There was no time
for the shout, "Don't Jump," for already
the flames had leaped out and
caught the woodwork of the window.
Esler made another forward move and
just as a burst of flame came, he toppled
into the net that had only a second
before been swung into position.
While streams of water were poured
into the upper part of the building, Firemen
Frank Dowling and Thomas Dowling of Hook
and Ladder 105 climbed up and entered
847 through the front windows!
They found the bodies of
Mrs. Esler and Catherine in the front
room. In a front hallroom they found
the body of Stephen. Harold was lying
in another room. His heart was beating
faintly when he was carried down
the ladder. In the effort to save his
life by quickening the heart action, Dr.
Samuel Silber administered a drug
stimulant. The boy rallied for a few
minutes, but died later.
The body of Mrs. Fennell was found
near a window leading to the fire
escape in the rear of her apartment.
She had been alone. Apparently, she had
fled through the front of the house but was
overcome by smoke as she attempted an

Jan. 10, 1924 edition of The New York Times