Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 57, Part VI

By Holice and Debbie

It was of a composite style of architecture, was built of blue stone, with Nova Scotia and terra cotta trimmings, and presented an imposing appearance exteriorly.

Placards were hung just inside the entrance, giving the tenants to understand that "these flats are absolutely fire-proof.' When once the fire stated this so-called "fire-proof" structure burnt with the fierceness and rapidity of a tinder ox, and defied all the exertions of the ample force of firemen that was on hand to stay the fury of the flames until they had consumed every perishable thing in the building, and left nothing but the walls standing. The building was arranged to accommodate two families on each floor, one family on ether side of the main hallway. There were seven rooms to each flat, and an extra room on the top floor, to be used for storage or a servant's room, to suit the occupants. The main door was in the center of the building and almost on a level with the sidewalk.

The person who gave warning of the fire was Louis Castaing, the elevator boy. He was about sixteen years old. He proved to be the hero of the hour, and almost sacrificed his life to save the lives of others.

The firemen who assisted in the rescue of the imperiled inmates were Binns, Barrett, and Graham, of No. 3 truck. Mrs. Lockwood and her child, and her maid, were rescued from a rear window. Four men held a ladder on their shoulders standing on the roof of an adjoining building, while policemen Kelly and Gilbride went up and rescued them.

Four men of the Insurance Patrol No. 3 were cut off from escape on the fifth floor. They escaped through a side window by letting themselves drop a distance of two stories to the roof of an adjoining building. They escaped unhurt. They were Lieutenant Locour, Sergeant Moore, and Patrolmen Price and Fry.

The assistant engineer, Frederick Kimmelberger, is the man who was coachman for Judge Van Brunt, of Bay ridge, L. I., when the house was attacked by midnight burglars, on which occasion two noted cracksmen--Mosher and Douglass--lost heir lives. He claims the credit of shooting them. He was in the cellar showing the firemen where he thought the fire was. The dumbwaiter fell upon him, the rope having been burned., he was badly crushed. Two firemen of Engine No. 5, James Rape, and T. J. Mooney, and James Campbell of Engine No. 11, were also hurt.

Seven women, finding their way cut off by the front passageway, flew for safety tot he fire-escapes in the rear. These they descended until they reached the second story. To reach the ground from thence they had to creep down a thirty-foot iron ladder, and by that means reach the yard. This in their hurry and alarm they were unable to do. Neither could they force open the trap door. Their positions was rendered still more perilous by the risk of being brained by all kinds of household utensils that came flying out of the back windows. Two of the women were preparing to spring from the fire-escapes when the inmates of the opposite house called to them to stay there they were, and then took a ladder and helped them down.

Theirs was a most perilous position, never did the firemen work harder or exhibit more gallantry. The building was, by reason of its great height, and general construction, a hard one to handle from a firemen's standard. Here the water tower came into operation with good effect. The modern appliances and appurtenances of a fireman's life were here of signal service. But for these the building would have been totally destroyed in short order. The so-called fire-proof structure burned like a tinder-box. But the force of firemen were equal to the occasion. It was, in fact, a battle for life against the mad, devouring flames. These were not subdued, however, until they had gutted the premises, and left the building in a ruined condition.


To become a fireman a person must be twenty-one years of age and of good moral character. He goes first to the secretary, and procures from him a blank, which he fills out, and get four reliable men to sign, certifying that they have known him for a certain number of years. The candidate then returns it to the secretary. He is then sent before the medical Board and examined as to this physical condition. He is measured, weighed, and the circumference of his chest taken, which must come within the following:

Minimum circumference of chest tolerable in applicants:

STATURE AND WEIGHT--The stature shall not be below 5 feet 7 inches, nor the weight below that marked as its minimum accompaniment in the subjoined table:


Height-Feet & Inches


Minimum Weight-Pounds































He must state whether he is subject to fits, piles, and whether his father or mother are dead? If either, or both, what they died of? Whether he ash any brothers or sisters dead? What they died of? If this examination is satisfactory, he goes to the gymnasium and his prowess of endurance are tested. From there he goes before the Board of Civil Service Examiners. He must have a fair knowledge of the three R's. In the meantime his application has been sent to the Chief of Battalion in whose district he lives, who investigates what he has sworn to in the application. His references are seen and examined. If this is all right, the chief returns it with his approval, presuming that he has passed all the examinations. He is appointed for fifteen days on probation, without pay. Then comes the course of instruction. He reports at the foot of West One Hundred and Fifty-eighth Street every morning at ten o'clock (Sundays and legal holidays excepted); here he is instructed in the use of all the ladders and implements of the life-saving corps. He is taught to hole a pipe, and in fact, everything pertaining to a fireman' career. In the afternoon he goes to the headquarters in Sixty-seventh Street, near Third Avenue. Here a verbal course of instruction is given; when this is over, he is assigned to an engine or truck company, where he sleeps and answers all alarms, and does duty as a fireman. This is the routine which a candidate follows day after day,. until his half month of probation has ended. If his company and Battalion commanders report favorably on him, he is appointed, and receives one thousand dollars for the first year, one thousand one hundred for the second, and then becomes a fireman of the first grade with a salary of tone thousand two hundred dollars.


General orders No. 4; issued on June 7, 1883. Resolved,

    1. The establishment of a school of instruction, and the rules governing it, are hereby announced tot he Department.
    2. Second Assistant Chief of Department Bonner is designated as instructor of the school, with power to select two assistants from the uniformed force, to be detailed at his request by the Chief of the Department.
    3. Until further orders the school will be located in the quarters of Engine Company No. 47, the third floor of which will be suitably arranged and fitted up with all the necessary appliances for the purpose.
    4. The school shall be divided into two classes; the first, or "Life Saving Corps," will be devoted to instructions and training in handling and using scaling and ordinary ladders, life lines, etc., and all other life saving appliances now in use or hereafter introduced. The second class to be devoted to general instruction in the practical duties of a fireman in quarters and at fires, and particularly in the handling, care, and use of all implements, tools, etc., employed in extinguishing fires.
    5. After passing a satisfactory examination by the medical officer, a candidate applying for appointment to the uniformed force, and volunteering to go to the school for instruction for a term of ten days, on probation and without pay, shall, if appointment is contemplated, be referred to the instructor, by endorsement on his application for appointment, on the directions of either of the commissioners, to determine his qualifications under a course of training in the first class. At the expiration of the term of probation the instructor shall return the application, with his report endorsed thereon, stating the candidate's qualifications. Inability to learn the proper handling of the life saving implements, or indifference to the instruction given, shall be regarded as disqualifying the candidate for membership; and if the instructor shall report a candidate incompetent, from any cause, to become proficient in the first class, he shall be ineligible for appointment. If a candidate is reported suitable and able to become proficient in the first class, and is appointed, he shall at once be assigned to a company, in which he shall perform duty at night, and at other times when his presence is not required in the school of instruction, to which he shall be ordered by the company commander to complete the course of instruction and training, reporting for that purpose to the instructor at the foot of West One Hundred and Fifty-eighth Street, at 10 A. M., on the day after his appointment takes effect, Sundays and legal holidays excepted, and thereafter at such times and places as the instructor may direct. At the close of the training and instruction, the instructor shall return the copy of the order of appointment (transmitted to him at the time of his appointment), with his report endorsed therein, in which shall be stated the degree of proficiency attained, and the branch of the service for which the appointee is best qualified.
    6. Members of the uniformed force volunteering for instruction in the first class, shall be ordered by the Chief of the Department to report to the instructor at 10 A. M., on the day after the receipt by him of their application, Sundays and legal holidays excepted, at the foot of West One Hundred and Fifty-eighth Street, and upon the completion of the course of instruction, he shall be reported by the instructor as to the degree of proficiency attained.
    7. The instructor shall keep a book of the name, age, height, weight, address or company number, date of entry, and degree of proficiency.
    8. Each Hook and Ladder Company in the Department shall carry three ladders, three belts, three life lines, and all life saving appliances as may be found necessary.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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