On 9/8/1934 the SS Morro Castle fire killed 137 of the 549 passengers and crew on board the ship underway off of the New Jersey coast. A luxury cruise ship en route from Havana to New York caught fire and burned around 2:50 a.m. The ship was sailing about eight nautical miles off Long Beach Island. A fire was detected in a storage locker in the First Class Writing Room on B Deck and burned through the ship’s main electrical cables at 3:10 a.m. plunging the ship into darkness, losing the radio, and the ability to steer the ship. Within 30 minutes the ship became engulfed in flames. Only six of the ship’s 12 lifeboats were launched; “the decision became either “jump or burn” for many passengers. However, jumping into the water was problematic as well. The sea, whipped by high winds, churned in great waves that made it extremely difficult to swim.” The ship beached near Asbury Park, NJ. “The use of fire retardant materials, automatic fire doors, ship-wide fire alarms, and greater attention to fire drills and procedures resulted directly from the Morro Castle disaster.” “The structure of the ship also created several problems. Although the ship had fire doors, there existed a wood-lined, six-inch opening between the wooden ceilings and the steel bulkheads. This provided the fire with a flammable pathway that bypassed the fire doors, enabling it to spread. The ship had electric sensors that could detect fires in any of the ship’s staterooms, crew quarters, offices, cargo holds, and engine room, there were no such detectors in the ship’s lounges, dance hall, writing room, library, tea room, or dining room. There were 42 hydrants on board, the system was designed with the assumption that no more than six would ever have to be used at any one time. When the emergency aboard the Morro Castle occurred, the crew opened virtually all working hydrants, dropping the water pressure to unusable levels everywhere. The ship’s Lyle gun, which is designed to fire a line to another ship to facilitate passenger evacuation in an emergency, was stored over the Morro Castle’s writing room, which is where the fire originated. The Lyle gun exploded just before 3:00 a.m., further spreading the fire and breaking windows, thereby allowing the near-gale force winds to enter the ship and fan the flames. Finally, fire alarms on the ship produced a “muffled, scarcely audible ring”, according to passengers.”
On 9/8/1872 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died as a result of critical burns he sustained on September 6, 1872, when he came in contact with flaming kerosene oil.”
On 9/8/1935 two Los Angeles, California firefighters died at the Mission Painted Fabrics Company fire in the plant located at 2481 E. 4th Street. “The fire was discovered around 10:16 p.m. on September 7th, by the Superintendent, who immediately notified the fire department. Engine Companies 2, 5, and 24, with Truck Companies 17 and 24; also Salvage 24 answered the alarm. The building contained many volatile liquids used in waterproofing fabrics. Especially one open dipping tank through which the fabrics were run to process them. Upon the arrival of the fire companies, Engine 2, who was the first on the scene proceeded to lay lines into the building. The front openings proved to be accessible, and two firefighters entered at a point in front of the waterproofing tank. The fire had spread so rapidly that it was necessary to enter at other points of the structure and Engine 2 entered with another line in the opposite opening at the front of the building. Almost simultaneously Engine Companies No. 5 and 24 had lines entering the building at the side and rear entrances. The fire was by this time covering the entire structure. It was quickly overcome and apparently, no danger existed, the blaze having been extinguished. The pre-heated condition of the volatile liquids contained in the water-proofing tank caused a boil-over and re-igniting itself on the floor entrapped the two firefighters who were immediately enveloped in flames. Efforts were made to extinguish the flames enveloping the two men and accomplishment was made to a certain degree, but not in time to avert the deaths of two firefighters, one would later die on September 12, 1935, from the injuries he sustained.”
On 9/8/1946 a Dayton, Ohio firefighter died while fighting a three-alarm fire at the Miller Auction Company located at 506 E. Third Street. “While fighting the fire, he was knocked off of a ladder placed at the rear of the building, by a stream of water and fell approximately 40 feet to the ground. He was removed to Miami Valley Hospital where he died just after midnight on September 8, 1946.”
On 9/8/1953 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “fell from a sixth-floor fire escape, at 231 to 233 East 118th Street, Manhattan on August 31, 1953. He was hit by a blast of hot air from the fire apartment. He landed in the rear yard and was rushed to Flower-Fifth Avenue Hospital. He succumbed to his injuries on September 8. The fire started on the sixth floor when a religious candle was knocked over into a pile of clothes.”
On 9/8/1991 a New Orleans, Louisiana firefighter “was killed when hot gases caught fire in a motorcycle shop where the fire department had just put out a six-alarm fire. He was part of a “flying squad” that was searching out hotspots. After the flashover, the ceiling collapsed injuring three firefighters and killing one.”
On 9/8/1990 Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house fire at the University of California, Berkeley killed three students, injured two others, and the building was heavily damaged. The 33-year-old, wood-frame, multistory fraternity house was an “L”-shaped structure with a large living room and sleeping room; all interior wall surfaces, including the exit stairways, were covered with wood paneling. The majority of the sleeping rooms had hollow-core wood doors, with two exceptions that had solid-core wood doors. The doors separating the sleeping area from the assembly area were normally kept open; closing devices on exit stairway doors had been removed. The fire started when a couch in the assembly room was ignited with a butane lighter and extended to the room’s combustible interior finish, and the fire quickly spread to other areas.
On 9/8/1974 a fire in a 9th-floor room in the 11-story high-rise Cavalier Beachfront Hotel Virginia Beach, Virginia destroyed the room and eventually extended to the nearby elevator lobby on that floor. A hotel employee who attempted to extinguish the fire was killed. Of significance in this fire are the delayed alarm and the failure of certain fire protection devices. The equipment that did not perform properly were doors for the exit stairway, doors to guest rooms, standpipe systems, and dampers in bathroom exhaust ducts.
On 9/8/1949 a three-alarm fire in the Chinatown section of San Francisco, California displaced seventy-five persons.
On 9/8/1932 the Llano, Texas Courthouse was damaged by fire.
On 9/8/1898 the Vesey Street New York, New York wine cellar explosion and fire killed three; around 5:20 p.m. an explosion shook the five-story building of the liquor dealer.
On 9/8/1895 the Paxton Hotel fire in Chicago, Illinois started on the third floor of the four-story brick building at 100 and 102 Randolph Street.
On 9/8/1860 the Steamer Lady Elgin collision with a schooner claimed over three hundred lives and sank within twenty minutes in Waukegan, Illinois. “She had upward of 350 passengers aboard, including several members of the military and fire companies. Only seventeen passengers have been saved as far as known.”
On 9/8/1888 the city of Mobile, Alabama formally organized a paid Fire Department ending the volunteer system.
On 9/8/1664 New Amsterdam became New York.
On 9/8/1900 The ‘Hurricane of 1900’ made landfall in Galveston, Texas resulting in over 8,000 dead and leaving the city in ruins. “Galveston hurricane of 1900, also called Great Galveston hurricane, hurricane (tropical cyclone) of September 1900, one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history, claiming more than 8,000 lives. As the storm hit the island city of Galveston, Texas, it was a category 4 hurricane. The storm was first detected on August 27 in the tropical Atlantic. The system landed on Cuba as a tropical storm on September 3 and moved on in a west-northwest direction. In the Gulf of Mexico, the storm rapidly intensified. Citizens along the Gulf Coast were warned that the hurricane was approaching; however, many ignored the warnings. On September 8 the storm reached Galveston, which at the time had a population of approximately 40,000 and benefited economically and culturally from its status as the largest port city in Texas. The storm tides (storm surges) of 8–15 feet (2.5–4.5 meters) and winds of more than 130 miles (210 km) per hour were too much for the low-lying city. Homes and businesses were easily demolished by the water and wind. Some 8,000 lives were lost, according to official estimates, but as many as 12,000 people may have died as a result of the storm. From Galveston, the storm moved on to the Great Lakes and New England, which experienced strong wind gusts and heavy rainfall. After the hurricane, Galveston raised the elevation of many new buildings by more than 10 feet (3 meters). The city also built an extensive seawall to act as a buffer against future storms. Despite the reconstruction, the city’s status as the premier shipping port was lost to Houston a few years after the disaster.”