On 1/10/1883 the Newhall House fire claimed the lives of seventy-one of the 300 residences in the six-story wood-frame Milwaukee, Wisconsin hotel around 4:00 a.m. The original home of the Milwaukee Chess Club the building was located on the northwest corner of Main (now Broadway) and Michigan Streets. The six-story Newhall House was constructed by merchant Daniel Newhall in 1856, originally designed as a hotel with apartment units. It was made of “Milwaukee brick” but substructures were constructed out of wood. The Newhall had a history of close calls, catching fire two times before its fatal blaze. The hotel was considered a “tinder box” by the fire department. “The fire started on the first floor and managed to spread up an elevator shaft. It quickly reached all six stories. By the time the fire was discovered the flames were out of control, and the staff failed to arouse many of the guests and employees. Many managed to escape, and some Milwaukee citizens rushed to the blaze saving many lives that night as well. The guests that night included P.T. Barnum Circus stars, General and Mrs. Tom Thumb, in a sixth-floor room. A firefighter managed to get a ladder up to them and, holding the tiny couple under one arm and grasping the swaying ladder with the other, made his way cautiously down through the flames to safety. “We saw the flames breaking through the roof as we left the station”, recalled a firefighter. “By the time we reached the hotel, the building was like a flaming straw stack. Men and women could be seen at their windows, shouting for help, screaming in despair”. The fire was hard-fought, ladders of some of the firefighters got caught in the new-fangled electric lines downtown, and never reached the building. Others could not stretch to the upper floors. Many guests, trapped by the inferno behind them chose to leap to their death in the streets below.” “The hotel register was destroyed, so it is not known how many people were in the Newhall House that night. At least seventy-six bodies were pulled from the charred remains over the next several days. Of the bodies that were recovered, a total of 55 were as followed: taken to the morgue 16, received from the ruins 26, injured in the fire and died later 8, the dead that were not taken to the morgue 5. That being a total of 55. This did not include the fragments of bodies found, and or cremated in the fire itself. About 40 people were reported as missing and believed to be in the Newhall on the evening of the fire, and were unaccounted for, which swells the list to 90. It is almost sure that there were over 100 people that lost their lives in that event.” “Most of the dead were buried at one of two cemeteries, Calvary Cemetery and Forest Home Cemetery. Memorials were erected at both cemeteries.”
On 1/10/1906 eight lives were lost, including one firefighter, in Minneapolis, Minnesota after a fire destroyed the West Hotel. The fire started in the packing room on the first floor and was confined to the elevator shaft and top floor of the building. “The wood, in the elevator shaft, burned like tinder and a sheet of flames, twenty feet wide, mounted to the seventh floor, frightening the guests out of their senses and minds and inducing a panic which struck terror to the stoutest of hearts.” “The firefighter died in action while attempting to rescue a woman trapped by fire on the seventh floor of the West Hotel at Hennepin Avenue South and 5th Street. He was carrying her down a pompier ladder when her hysterical struggle threw them from the ladder. The woman was caught as she fell on a third-floor balcony, but he fell seven floors to the street and died instantly.”
On 1/10/1976 a “natural gas leak in the basement at Pathfinder Hotel in downtown Fremont, Nebraska exploded, and the ensuing fire killed twenty-three people at 9:32 a.m. Most of the city block (six adjacent buildings) was destroyed. The hotel was used as an apartment complex occupied mostly by senior citizens. The natural gas leak that caused the explosion was believed to have been caused by an underground pipe separation. The “odor of the natural gas” had been detected about four hours before the explosion. The fire was able to spread vertically through inadequately protected elevator shafts, stairways, and pipe chases.” “Extremely cold weather played into the tragedy. Workers had retrofitted 4-inch gas mains in the area by inserting 2-inch plastic pipes within them. Low temperatures, which fell to 25 below zero that winter, caused a new fitting to contract. It began leaking gas beneath the hotel. People started smelling gas about 6:00 a.m. on the day of the explosion. Around 9:00 a.m. the hotel maintenance man located three servicemen from the gas companies who immediately determined that there was an explosive concentration of flammable gas in the basement and requested the hotel be evacuated. Only the kitchen had been evacuated before the explosion occurred at 9:33 a.m. and the building erupted in flames.”
On 1/10/1908 two Bronx, New York (FDNY) died at a five-alarm fire that originated on the sixth floor of a 12-story commercial building, Box # 55-361, 225-233 4th Avenue. “After being superheated and then struck by fire streams, the steel columns supporting the upper floors suddenly buckled, collapsing eight floors into the cellar.” Three members of the Fire Patrol were carried down into the cellar, two were crushed to death under tons of rubble. A total of 50 other firefighters were injured in the collapse, many seriously.
On 1/10/1913 a Mobile, Alabama firefighter “lost his life when he was crushed beneath tons of falling brick, shortly after 7:00 p.m., while battling a spectacular fire at the Mobile Theater.”
On 1/10/1965 a San Francisco, California firefighter “died from injuries he sustained while operating at an apartment fire at 1750 Taylor.”
On 1/10/1967 a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighter “died from injuries he sustained after he collapsed in the basement of a building while operating at a fire.”
On 1/10/1990 a twenty-year-old firefighter “died at the Carswell Air Force Base, Texas from a Halon-related heart attack during an aircraft training incident.”
On 1/10/1999 an Oakland, California firefighter “was crushed and killed at 3052 Broadway, in a two-story, balloon-frame building of mixed occupancy, with a residential area over the commercial premises, when the second floor of a turn of the century residential structure collapsed into the first floor. The fire eventually went to six alarms. A total of four firefighters were trapped by the collapse.” “The structure involved in the incident was a two-story Type V balloon wood frame Victorian-style taxpayer building with a night club, Back on Broadway, on the first floor and a residential apartment on the second floor. The building had one-story commercial structures on both the Bravo and Delta sides exposures and was located in a commercial area north of downtown Oakland. The structure was built in 1890. The two-story balloon-framed structure had 2-inch by 10-inch lumber for floor joists spanning from Bravo to Delta side (approximately 26 feet), spaced on 16-inch centers, and nailed directly to the sides of the 2-inch by 4-inch wall studs. The wall studs stretched from the first floor to the roofline with no headers or top plates separating the two floors. The structure had been remodeled several times, the last in 1986 when it was remodeled as a nightclub. A new furnace had been installed in an area where structural supports had been cut out. The wall studs had been cut and removed from the floor to the ceiling of the first floor to provide an opening for the furnace. The removed studs had never been replaced, weakening the floor above. Additionally, fire stops were not present in the wall studs, allowing the fire to spread rapidly.
On 1/10/2011 an Asbury Park, New Jersey “firefighter suffered critical burn injuries and was forced to bail out of a second-floor window during a fire in a taxpayer-type occupancy. City firefighters responding to a reported structure fire arrived on the scene and observed a large two-story commercial/residential structure, with smoke showing from the front windows of a second-floor apartment. Firefighters encountered a person near the front of the building reporting that someone was still inside the apartment. Crews immediately began search and rescue operations and deployed a hoseline to the second floor for fire suppression operations. During interior operations, firefighters reported that interior conditions were very hot with zero visibility and that they had difficulty operating inside due to the apartment being very tight and cluttered. Interior conditions deteriorated rapidly. The firefighter was caught in a flashover of the second-floor apartment and escaped out a second-floor window. He hit the sidewalk, with his turnout gear on fire, and he was severely burned.”
On 1/10/1962 a grain dust explosion “killed three and injured forty-three at the Ralston Purina Company in Saint Louis, Missouri that sent fire “roaring through” the huge industrial complex. The explosion destroyed an old three-story granary and spread to a complex of milling buildings and an 11-story grain elevator.”
On 1/10/1962 a mine gas explosion killed eleven at the Blue Blaze Coal Co.’s No. 2 mine northeast of Carterville, Illinois at about 6:30 p.m.
On 1/10/1952 five stores and four offices were destroyed by a fire in Haskell, Texas that started in a cotton brokerage office when a porter tried to light a gas stove.
On 1/10/1940 a coal mine gas explosion killed ninety-two near Bartley, West Virginia in the southwestern tip of McDowell County, one of southern West Virginia’s busiest and richest coal sections. The explosion occurred in Bartley Number 1 mine of the Pond Creek Pocahontas Coal Company.
On 1/10/1911 six people died in Cincinnati, Ohio at the Chamber of Commerce fire in a building erected in 1884 at the southwest corner of Fourth and Vine. The fire started on the top floor clubroom kitchen as a “grease fire” during a banquet and extended to the timber frame roof. “The floors were suspended on steel trusses that, because of the high heat from the flames, gave way plunging all the floors to the basement. The only thing left standing was the masonry exterior walls.”
On 1/10/1908 offices and buildings of 12 small firms were destroyed by the Melrose, Iowa conflagration. This fire was five days after the Albia, Iowa conflagration just 16.5 miles away.
On 1/10/1860 a large factory, the Pemberton Mill, in Lawrence, Massachusetts collapsed and killed 145 employees and injured 166 others. A five-story 280’ by 84’ structure was built in 1853. The owners “jammed more machinery into their factory attempting to boost its profits”. The building contained 2,700 spindles and 700 looms employing more than six hundred workers, many of them women and children who became trapped just before 5:00 p.m. Around 9:30 p.m. while rescue operations were in progress, “someone accidentally knocked over an oil lantern. Flames raced across the cotton waste and splintered wood, some of it soaked with oil” forcing rescuers to retreat.
On 1/10/1840 the Steamboat Lexington fire claimed 200 lives in Long Island Sound near Eaton’s Neck, New York after leaving New York City for Stonington, Connecticut at 3:00 p.m. Around 7:00 p.m. cotton stored on the deck caught fire near a smoke pipe. “The boat was headed, for the shore as soon as the efforts to extinguish the fire proved unsuccessful. She was provided with three boats, yet such was there the panic that took possession of all minds, that they were hoisted out while the boat was still under headway and immediately swamped. The engine a few minutes after gave way, leaving her utterly unmanageable.” “In one hour, she was burnt to the water’s edge and all but three persons perished.”