On 1/9/1912 the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway New York, New York was destroyed by a fire that claims the lives of a firefighter and six civilians, slowing the business of the Stock Exchange and several banking houses. However, the contents of the huge vaults were not significantly damaged. The fire started in the rear of the Cafe Savarin and extended to the elevator shafts that acted as chimneys, conveying fire directly to the roof. The flames mushroomed on several floors, and in less than half an hour the interior of the entire building was in flames. Construction was completed on May 1, 1870, and was the first office building to feature passenger elevators. The eight-story building stood a then-record 130 feet, the world’s first skyscraper. The “spectacular fire destroyed an eight-story, block-square, life assurance building… The building occupied the entire block bordered by Broadway, Nassau, Cedar, and Pine Streets, approximately 48,000 square feet in area. The structure had undergone many alterations, including openings on most floors between structures, allowing uninhibited travel from one area to another. It was of so-called fireproof construction, having floors mainly of wood on brick or hollow tile arches between wrought iron and steel “I beams”. The beams rested on walls and columns mostly of cast iron. The building was vitally weak, the structural metalwork was not fireproofed, and the cast-iron columns failed, causing three separate portions to collapse… Several employees tried to fight the fire themselves, but the alarm was delayed and allowed for heavy fire involvement on the first four floors before the arrival of firefighters. During the fire, two insurance officials, who were trapped in the basement vault section behind two-inch steel bars, were rescued after over an hour of arduous work by firefighters using hacksaws. Rescuers had to contend with falling debris and total building failure to rescue the trapped men. A firefighter was killed in this fire, in addition to six civilians, two of whom jumped to their deaths from the roof. The firefighter was killed when he was caught in a collapse on the fourth floor while trying to make an interior attack on the fire. He was buried under tons of debris and it was several days before his crushed body was found at the third-floor level…” “At 5:34 a.m. the first fire alarm was rung at the corner of Pine and Nassau Streets and within minutes the first firefighters arrived. Within half an hour the majority of Manhattan’s firefighters were at the scene, containing the fires within the building and spraying the exterior from neighboring buildings. And yet the fire burned on. For the first time in the history of the fire department, Brooklyn fire companies were called in to help with a Manhattan fire. The Brooklyn Bridge was even closed to traffic to allow the fire engines to get to the Equitable Building as quickly as possible… The fire was contained at 9:30 a.m. and by that time the Equitable Building was in ruins. Six people had lost their lives, including a firefighter (Battalion Chief) and two-night watchmen who had been trapped inside the building. A second firefighter (Captain) was gravely injured and would later die. This disaster, along with the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, made it clear that new laws were needed to maintain safety in a rapidly changing cityscape.”
On 1/9/1918 eight Chicago, Illinois firefighters die at a Chicago Avenue Theater fire. “Shortly after midnight firefighters from the Chicago Fire Department responded to a fire at the Chicago Theater, located at the intersection of 2120 West Chicago Avenue and Leavitt Street. The fire spread quickly through the theater and a 4-11 alarm was raised, but firefighting efforts were impeded by heavy snowfall. Firefighters were operating in and around the theater when a wall collapsed, trapping eight firefighters in the debris.” Four were killed instantly in the collapse, and four others suffered serious injuries, that would lead to their deaths. “This theater was built before 1910. It was laid out somewhat oddly, with the auditorium parallel to the street and the lobby opening on the cross-aisle of the house. It had a small balcony.
On 1/9/1927 a fire at the Laurier Palace movie theater killed seventy-eight in Montreal, Quebec, caused by a cigarette smoldering beneath the wood floor. When smoke began to appear the 250 children that were watching a comedy called “Get ‘Em Young” panicked. “One of two balcony stairways was locked, and the doors opened toward the inside. Seventy-eight children died: 12 were crushed, 64 asphyxiated, and 2 children were killed by the fire itself. Survivors remembered the cry of fire and smoke quickly filling the air. Ushers, not realizing the danger, at first blocked the east balcony exit and urged the children to return to their seats. The exit doors opened inwards, meaning that the crush of those trying to escape prevented them from being opened. The projectionist got thirty children away from the locked exit into the projection booth, then passed them out a window onto the marquee above the sidewalk, where they descended firefighter’s ladders… A fire station was across the street and firefighters arrived quickly… The people seized upon the tragedy of the Laurier Palace Theatre as an opportunity to block children’s access to the cinema in general, claiming that the cinema “ruins the health of children, weakens their lungs, troubles their imagination, excites their nervous system, harms their education, overexcites their sinful ideas and leads to immorality“. A few months later Judge Louis Boyer recommended that everyone under 16 is forbidden access to cinema screenings. The following year, to appease extremists who wanted the cinema closed to all, such a law was passed and remained in effect for 33 years, until 1961. Building codes were also modified so that the doors of public buildings were required to open outwards. In 1967, the cinema law was further modified, setting up a motion picture rating system that divided the movie-going population into age groups of 18 and over, 14 and over, and general (for all).”
On 1/9/1981 the Beachview Rest Home in Keansburg, New Jersey, a boarding home fire claimed twenty-nine lives. The “fire roared through a 54-room two-story brick boarding home in central New Jersey before dawn which housed 114 elderly and mentally retarded residents. At least 14 residents of the Beachview Rest Home, on Raritan Bay about 30 miles south of Newark, were injured in the blaze. When the fire department arrived, flames were coming out of the entire front of the building. The heat of the smoldering building was so intense that firefighters were unable to enter in a search for victims until nearly six hours after the fire broke out. The fire was reported to the fire department at 3:57 a.m. Some 200 firefighters from a half dozen neighboring communities brought the blaze under control just before 7:00 a.m. Within six to eight minutes after the fire was reported, 40 firefighters were on the scene. Even as they arrived, however, flames were engulfing the front of the building and most of the 78 sobbing and shivering survivors and a half dozen employees were already making their way out through rear fire exits and an exterior stairway, hobbling into the subzero cold. The boarding homeowner said the building did not have sprinklers, which were not required under state law, but it did have smoke detectors.”
On 1/9/1913 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 fire at the Mobile Theater.”
On 1/9/2022 a major fire “in a residential apartment building in the Bronx, New York left 19 people dead, including 9 children. The blaze sent 32 people to hospitals with life-threatening conditions, and a total of 63 people were injured. The residents described overwhelming smoke in the building. The residential apartment where the fire occurred is 50 years old and has 120 units. A “malfunctioning electric space heater” was the source of the fire. The heater was in the bedroom of an apartment, and the fire consumed the room and then the entire apartment. About 200 members of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) responded to the fire at the 19-story building at 333 East 181st Street. The fire began a little before 11:00 a.m. in a duplex apartment on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building.
On 1/9/1934 a Los Angeles, California firefighter on January 3, 1934, “was overcome by smoke at a fire earlier in the day. Later the same day he responded to an electrical fire where a carbon-tetra-chloride extinguisher was used in a confined space. He went down again from the toxic fumes of the extinguisher. With his lungs damaged for the second time in a shift, he was transported to the Receiving Hospital. He never returned to duty and died of pneumonia a few days later on January 9.”
On 1/9/1942 three Paul, Minnesota firefighters “died from asphyxiated by smoke and heat at a fire in Saint Paul Athletic Club, 344 Cedar Street. They fought the blaze with the temperature of 2 degrees below zero and soon the streets and the buildings were covered in ice inches thick. They ran into the taproom to reach the card room and close some windows and a door there to prevent the spreading of flames. Overcome by smoke and gas, the three of them perished. All three were taken into a billiard room, across the open court from the taproom, and rescue squads with inhalators worked to revive them. Their efforts were futile.”
On 1/9/1945 two Manhattan, New York (FDNY) died in “a six-story brick storage warehouse was involved in a very violent four-alarm fire. They were killed when the front wall collapsed on top of them as they operated a deck gun in front of the building. As this fire was being fought, two other simultaneous multiple-alarm fires occurred in a five-story brick piano factory and a five-story brick tenement in the same area. Many firefighters were injured and overcome at all three fires. Engine 36’s hose wagon was crushed and destroyed in the collapse, and Ladder 40’s tractor was also heavily damaged.”
On 1/9/1947 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died as a result of the injuries he sustained on December 31, 1946, when he and numerous other firefighters were caught in the collapse of a loft building. while operating at a four-alarm fire at 749 Broadway. A firefighter, who was also critically injured, died on January 4, 1947, as a result of his injuries.”
On 1/9/1960 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died as a result of the injuries he sustained while operating at a single-alarm fire.”
On 1/9/1999 a Worthington-Jefferson Township, Indiana “firefighter entered a structural fire in a house alone with a hose line. He was equipped with full turnout gear and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) but was not equipped with a personal alert safety system (PASS). It is believed that he tripped over a coffee table and became entangled in a couch. He removed his SCBA to call for help and was overcome by extremely heavy heat and smoke conditions. Firefighters on the scene attempted a rescue but were driven back by intense heat and flames and finally by the collapse of the house’s roof. His body was found approximately ten feet inside the front door of the structure. The cause of death was asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide.”
On 1/9/2008 a Boston, Massachusetts firefighter died from injuries he sustained at a fire on January 3. “He responded to a 2-alarm fire at the old John W. McCormack Federal Building, Post Office Square. The fire was confined to a ‘Bob-Cat’ and building materials on the 2nd floor, which created a very heavy smoke condition on the upper floors. While ascending construction stairs, he caught his boot on the riser of the step and fell, striking and injuring his left elbow. The wound became infected with Staphylococcus aureus and he developed cellulitis. He was hospitalized on 01/04/2008 and the wound on his elbow was drained on 01/05/2008. He developed pneumonia related to the injury and was aggressively treated until he succumbed to metabolic acidosis due to aspiration pneumonia, from anasarca, due to staphylococcus septicemia on 01/09/2008.”
On 1/9/2015 a 3:00 a.m. house fire that started from a pot left on a gas stove in Tolaga Bay on the East Coast north of Gisborne, New Zealand killed an elderly couple. The home had a smoke alarm, but it is not clear if the alarm was working.
On 1/9/2014 in Hammond Indiana a house fire killed three children, ages 7 months, 3, and 4 years old, and injured three others, the doors appeared barricaded by furniture.
On 1/9/2014 a five-alarm San Jose, California warehouse fire damaged the 125,000-square-foot warehouse containing several roofing and plumbing supplies, plus additional plastic materials that fueled a fire. This was one of four fires worked in the city. The other fires included a two-alarm condominium fire and two small fires
On 1/9/1974 an early morning fire originated in a television set at the Orlando South Travel Lodge in Pine Castle, Florida. The occupants were able to escape from the second-floor room of origin. The latest in a series of 20 malfunctions in TV sets at this motel over the last year; 18 occurred in the preceding eight months.
On 1/9/1974 a landmark hotel, the Crandall Motor Inn, in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin was destroyed by fire. “Arson was strongly suspected in the fire since the two buildings, which are located across the street from each other, broke into flames simultaneously.”
On 1/9/1972 the ship Seawise University (formerly the RMS Queen Elizabeth) sank after catching fire in Hong Kong Harbor despite massive firefighting efforts. “Queen Elizabeth, named after the wife of King George VI, was launched on September 27, 1938; at the time, it was the largest passenger steamship ever constructed. When World War II began, Queen Elizabeth was sent to New York to protect it from German bombs. There, it was docked next to the Normandie and the Queen Mary, the other two largest passenger ships of the time. Later, Queen Elizabeth was called into service as a troop transport ship, carrying nearly 1 million soldiers during the war. Following the war, the ship returned to commercial service and became one of the dominant transatlantic carriers In 1968, the ship’s owner, the Cunard Steamship Company, sold Queen Elizabeth to a company that sought to turn it into a tourist attraction and hotel in Philadelphia. However, the aging ship was deemed a fire hazard and two years later it was sold to Hong Kong businessman C.Y. Tung, who wanted to use the ship as a floating college. It was renamed Seawise University and sent to Hong Kong Harbor for refitting. On January 8, a fire broke out on the ship, and virtually the entire Hong Kong firefighting force turned out to try to save it. Despite heroic efforts over two days, the old ship turned on its side and sank to the bottom of the harbor.”
On 1/9/1916 a fire destroyed a 200-foot-long 80-foot-wide corrugated steel building belonging to Thomas Edison used to make carbolic acid. It is believed that the fire started from defective wiring. Edison stated: “I’ll have that building replaced within 48 hours!”
On 1/9/1889 the Citizens Gas Company at Fifth and Smith Streets, Brooklyn, New York was struck by lightning followed by an explosion and fire at 7:30 p.m.
On 1/9/1891 the foreman of the asbestos mine in Pelham, Massachusetts placed a “powder cartridge” in the oven to warm it in the house where he boarded causing the cartridge exploded, setting the house on fire and seriously injuring three residents.
On 1/9/1888 a boiler explosion attributable to defective machinery killed two and injured ten in Brazil, Indiana at the Central Iron and Steel Company.