On 3/25/1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire left 146 dead in New York City. The company employed approximately 500 workers, mostly young immigrant women, some as young as twelve working 60 to 72 hours per week sewing clothes. “The company occupied the top three floors of the iron and steel loft ten-story Asch Building on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. The structure was supported by iron and steel-reinforced masonry walls while the floors, interior trim, and window frames were wood. The building was equipped with only two narrow poorly illuminated stairways serving all floors and a rickety exterior fire escape that terminated at the second floor, not at the ground. The building had four elevators that accessed the factory floors, however only one was operational on the day of the fire. Workers had to file down a long narrow corridor to reach it. The building was also not equipped with fire sprinklers but had fire hose stations on all floors. The fire began on the eighth floor and quickly extended. The lack of exits prevented escape, and many would jump to their death. The rooms on the upper three floors were packed with combustible materials, including clothing products hanging from lines above workers’ heads, rows of tightly spaced sewing machines, cutting tables bearing bolts of cloth, and linen and cotton cuttings littering the floors, that resulted in a massive spread of fire occurring in a matter of seconds. The rooms on each floor were overcrowded because there was no limit at the time as to how many people could occupy one floor. The industrial tragedy is remembered as one of the worst in American history. In the early 20th century, thousands of immigrants arrived at Ellis Island, and many found work in the thriving industrial scene. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, one of about 450 factories in Manhattan, took up the top three floors of the Asch building, in Greenwich Village. It was a sweatshop, the workers, many of them Jewish and Italian women, churned out shirtwaists (cotton and linen button-down blouses) in close quarters 52 hours a week earning between $7 and $12. They were sewing when the fire broke out. The fire hose was corroded, and there was no sprinkler system; the elevator, able to hold just 12 people, could make only four trips before it broke down; and while there were two stairways leading to the street, the doors were locked. The fire escape was too narrow for everyone, about 600 workers, to quickly file out. Some jumped down the elevator shaft and others out the windows. Many others were burned alive. The fire brought attention to the dangerous conditions of such factories and eventually led to workplace regulations designed with worker safety in mind.” “As a result of this fire, there were several new building and safety regulations required in the city. Mandatory fire drills, periodic fire inspections, working fire standpipe hoses, fire sprinklers, exit signs, fire alarms, doors that swung in the direction of travel, and stairway size restrictions were instituted throughout the city and country. The Chief of the FDNY, Edward F. Croker suggested alternatives for constructing fireproof buildings, such as eliminating all wood and using metal, terra cotta, or concrete, and for establishing adequate exit routes. His ideas were the foundation of the Fire Prevention Law of 1911, a direct result of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy. The law was amended the following year to increase the power of the Fire Commissioner to enforce fire drills in factories, businesses, hospitals, schools, and other institutions.”
On 3/25/1990 the Happy Land Social Club arson fire killed eighty-seven in New York City, most of the victims were ethnic Hondurans celebrating Carnival. “The 2-story Type III ordinary construction masonry and wood joist building, locally known as a taxpayer, was 58 feet deep and 22 feet wide. The building had only two exits side-by-side, 10 feet apart, at the sidewalk of the alpha side. Steel roll-up security shutters covered both of the exits. A single window on the first floor on the alpha side was covered by steel security bars. A steel door on the charlie side that accessed a rear alley had been welded shut. The first floor contained a barroom and lounge, and the second floor, which was accessed by two narrow interior stairways, operated as a social hall with a second bar. One of the staircases had a metal grate at the first-floor level that could be closed isolating the second floor when the social hall upstairs was not in use. The building was equipped with a partial sprinkler system. Wall finish throughout the interior of the building was 3/16-inch wood paneling. The ceilings were low-density fiberboard tiles in the first-floor entry and bar, and gypsum board elsewhere. The fiberboard tiles were installed on furring strips under the floor joists and the paneling was on furring strips over plaster.” “An unemployed Cuban refugee Julio González after arguing with his girlfriend returned to the club with gasoline which he spread on the only staircase and started the fire. Other fire exits had been blocked; the club was ordered closed for building code violations in November of 1988. “Violations included no fire exits, alarms, or sprinkler system. No follow-up by the fire department was documented.” “Found guilty of 87 counts of arson and 87 counts of murder, González was sentenced to 174 twenty-five-year sentences, to be served concurrently. It was the longest prison term ever imposed in the state of New York. He was first eligible for parole in March 2015.” Julio Gonzalez died in prison in September 2016 from a heart attack.
On 3/25/1910 the L. Fish and Company Furniture Store fire claimed the lives of twelve and injured several more when the fire destroyed the six-story building at Nineteenth and Wabash in Chicago, Illinois. “The company’s auditor asks an office boy to go down to the fourth floor and fill three cigar lighters with benzene. As he was filling the third lighter, the benzene bursts into flame, and he ran out of the building and headed for the alley behind the building, telling no one what happened. Part of the building was used as a storehouse, and the furniture for sale, which was packed in on every floor, furnished the fuel for the fire which spread at an alarming rate. About seventy-five people were at work in the building. The flames, however, cut off all escape routes on floors four through six. Luckily, the employees on the first three floors were able to make it to safety. A “4-11” alarm was turned in, and all the downtown fire companies hurried to the scene. When they reached it, the flames had apparently got to the point that it made it impossible to save the building. Still, several firefighters endeavored to enter the building but were overcome by the smoke and heat and had to be assisted out.
On 3/25/1952 a six-floor hotel fire killed six of the estimated 150 who were in the St. George Hotel at 115 E. Third Street Los Angeles, California when the fire started at 3:00 a.m. in room 312. “Fire Captain…said a check showed that the hotel’s second-floor fire hose was so rotted it was not usable, and a weight-balanced fire escape ladder at the rear, leading from the second floor to the ground, was wired up.”
On 3/25/2018 at least sixty-four people died when a fire burned through a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, Russia “Many of the victims were children, and at least sixteen people were still missing after the blaze in the industrial city of about half a million people, about 2,000 miles east of Moscow. The fire started around 5:00 p.m. on the fourth floor of the mall, which includes a three-screen cinema complex, a skating rink, and an entertainment center for children. The fire had started in the children’s entertainment room, where there was a trampoline with foam rubber. “The preliminary version is that one of the children had a lighter.” “The fire started from the trampoline pool, filled with foam rubber, which got lit up like gunpowder.”
On 3/25/1885 a Buffalo, New York firefighter and a civilian died after being cut off by a rapidly spreading fire. “On arrival, firefighters found heavy fire throughout a young men’s association building. After a short time, the fire extended to the tower of a church. Assisted by civilians, firefighters stretched a line into the tower to stop the spread of the flames. Conditions rapidly deteriorated forcing firefighters and civilians alike to flee for their lives.”
On 3/25/1914 fifteen Milwaukee, Wisconsin firefighters were overcome by smoke requiring medical treatment at Saddlery Factory fire at 300-304 Milwaukee Street
On 3/25/1919 a Manchester, New Hampshire firefighter “died as a result of massive injuries sustained the previous day, when the “pony” extinguisher he was carrying on his back exploded while he was operating at a brush fire in a cemetery.”
On 3/25/1925 a Binghamton, New York firefighter died while fighting a fire at 155 Washington Street “The Coffee Den”. He was trapped when a floor collapsed, pinning him under a large beam in the basement where he drowned before rescuers could reach him.
On 3/25/1933 a Berkeley, California firefighter died from the injuries he sustained while operating at a fire.
On 3/25/1969 a Lakewood, Minnesota firefighter “died while at a structure fire. After making entry, he suffered an episode with his breathing apparatus, and was unable to make it out of the building.”
On 3/25/1970 a Quincy, Illinois firefighter died “shortly after noon at a fire in a residence at 524 Payson Avenue. The fire had gutted three upstairs bedrooms and spread to two downstairs rooms. The crews on the scene worked hard to fight the fire and successfully extinguished the flames. They then began overhauling the building. While chopping a hole in the floor of a burned-out room, he collapsed. He was rushed to Blessing Hospital but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.”
On 3/25/1979 three Lubbock, Texas firefighters died “while checking for extension of fire in a restaurant which was being remodeled at 711 – 34th Street, the firefighters died of smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation when they apparently became disoriented in the heavy smoke and ran out of air.”
On 3/25/2001 a Westville, New Jersey firefighter died from injuries he sustained on January 1st, 2001 at a structure fire in a 1½ -story residence. “Upon his arrival, the Fire Chief observed a glow from the basement, heavy smoke conditions, and fire visible from the rear kitchen windows. A car parked in front of the house and reports from neighbors that the house was occupied led the Chief to believe that rescue was needed. Upon the arrival of the first engine company, the Chief ordered two firefighters to enter the rear of the structure to perform a primary search of the structure. As soon as a firefighter entered the kitchen, the floor collapsed into the basement. The firefighter, who was wearing full protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), fell into the burning basement. Rescue efforts were begun immediately by firefighters who entered the basement through an outside door. The firefighter was located immediately, but his removal was delayed by the fact that he was trapped under the debris of the kitchen that had fallen into the basement. Firefighters were assisted in locating the firefighter by the sounding of his personal alert safety system (PASS) device. The firefighter was conscious and guided rescuers. After significant efforts lasting approximately 20 minutes, he was removed from the structure. Advanced life support (ALS) medical care was provided, and he was transported to the hospital. He had severe burns over 74% of his body. He was conscious and alert upon his arrival at the hospital. The firefighter underwent at least nine surgeries related to his injuries including the amputation of his hands. His condition progressively worsened and he died on March 25, 2001. The structure fire that claimed his life was a rekindle of an earlier dryer fire. The residents had extinguished the earlier fire and had not called the fire department. At approximately 11:30 p.m., after the original fire was thought to be extinguished, the residents left the house.”
On 3/25/1954 a fire and explosion destroyed an Atlanta, Georgia five-story office building in the center of the business district that started around midnight in a building at 50-56 Pryor Street. “Firefighters said gases generated by the blaze probably caused the explosion which blew out the front of the structure.”
On 3/25/1947 in Steilacoom, Washington one man died and two were injured when Western State Hospital for the insane was destroyed by a fire in the three-story brick building; 230 inmates were able to escape.
On 3/25/1947 a coal mine explosion killed 122 miners near Centralia, Illinois.
On 3/25/1931 the three-story Charles City, Iowa high school was destroyed by a fire that started in the furnace and boiler room around 5:00 a.m.
On 3/25/1914 over one-third of the town of Mount Airy, Maryland was destroyed by a fire that started at the Farmers’ Grain and Milling Company.
On 3/25/1913 the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts chemistry building burned in Ames, Iowa.
On 3/25/1910 the Twin Lakes (Wisconsin) Ice House was destroyed by fire.
On 3/25/1873 eight business buildings were destroyed in Phenix Village, Rhode Island.