THE PARK AVENUE HOTEL FIRE.

THE PARK AVENUE HOTEL FIRE.

Very early Saturday morning the last fire broke out in the Seventy-first Regiment Armory at Park Avenue and Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan, New York, and in an incredibly short period of time this building apparently impregnable had to succumb to the enemy. A careless smoker in one of the halls of the company, throwing a cigar butt or a cigarette butt, caused a fire that not only destroyed the armory itself, but also spread to the Park Hotel Neighboring Avenue and caused the removal of nineteen lives and burial injured a very large number of guests. The armory itself was just a fire trap. As for its drill floor, it was so sturdily constructed and solidly braced that it was able to withstand the vibrations of troops on the march, and the impact of the weight of most of the roof and much of granite and brick masonry that fell on during the fire. But all that was above this floor was only a frame of stone around a hailstone built of unfireproofed wood, thus offering all possible facilities for the spread of flames. Facing the bLi~e, the department was terribly handicapped. The alarm (another alarm) did not reach Major Riss at the nearest station until the flames had made great strides and burst through the windows. They were first discovered by a woman, not by the Dolices. The shockingly poor condition of the streets has caused some of the rooms to require crews to be taken from one room to help reassemble another – the water tower, for example. A report also indicates that some of the fire hydrants were frozen; certainly the harsh weather numbed the hands of the firefighters, while the rapid transit excavation caused delays, as did the high wind, sleet and the constant explosion of small arms ammunition around the men as they worked . The result was the total gutting of the armory above the practice floor, likely necessitating its complete reconstruction and causing a loss to the state, city, and regiment of a million dollars.

Meanwhile, as the fire raged there, burning embers (much as big as a man’s head) and sparks were sucked (as seems most likely) by the draft into the elevator shaft of the Park Avenue Hotel, which was packed with guests. . These sparks appeared on the soiled rags and trash, which are so often allowed to accumulate out of sight of the hotel management, and brought them to light. The flames then followed in the wake of the elevator car, igniting the old pine covering of the shaft, the woodwork of which had been exposed to the saturating action of the oil, until they encountered those already at work on the upper floors, two or three of which have been completely burned. As the stairs ran parallel to the elevator – a construction method that completely belied the hotel’s claims to classify itself as a fireproof building – flames erupted to its sides, as well as upwards , and completely cut off any possibility of escape for those who hoped to reach the street by their means. The flames had crept in stealthily and unguarded; all help was outside with the guards watching the fire from the armory, or on the roof parrying and extinguishing the sparks. Their presence was apparently first noticed by Battalion Commander Ross, who was at the hotel making arrangements for his protection. When the alarm was sounded, it was not heeded, so confident were the fireproofing of the building that no one believed it possible that any danger could befall the inmates. When the truth was discovered, the fire alarm system was inadequate; the guards and the like were not there to warn or guide guests down the back stairs; there were no red lights to show the wav at these outputs; and the few lights there were not visible because of the smoke. The vaunted fireproofing was a trap and a decoy, and anyway the rooms were full of unfireproofed wood and other flammable materials. However, contrary to all common sense, if not the law (because the building was no more than nine storeys high and was not subject to the new ordinance as to fire resistance and, it is claimed, as to the presence fire escapes), there were no fire escapes outside to spoil the aesthetic effect, nor even ropes in the rooms to facilitate a descent to the ground. Consequently, many jumped out of the windows, to their death and serious injuries. The firefighters outside inevitably lost time getting to work, having to move their devices through all the mush and haste (during which the fall of the armory wall destroyed a number of pipes ), to drag what was left of the hose around the hotel and up several flights of stairs, hoping to connect with the garden hose from the house, only to find that there wasn’t a foot of hose in the place, not even a decent fire extinguisher.

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