They were struck by a mass of brick and mortar.
A Wall was toppled over by the explosion as 19 Newark firefighters were caught in the collapse while fighting the blaze from a lower building.
3 were killed and 16 were injured by falling wall at the fire on Mechanic Street at about 5:00 A.M. April 23, 1904.
The dead were Jacob Bleyhle of Truck Company No. 3 , William P. Crane of Engine Company No. 3 and Leo Ross of Truck Co. No. 3 would die the following day.
Just what caused the fire was not known but it started in the 4th floor of the five story brick building at 89 mechanic Street adjoining it on the West Side was a one story brick structure. The big building was occupied by Wiener Company. The one story structure was occupied by empire Gear and Top Company. As soon as the firemen arrived, about 25 of them with hand lines imposed on the smaller building. They were there only five minutes when an explosion occurred in the latter building throwing out the West wall on the firemen.
It was said that a can of benzene caused the explosion. One of the members of the firm, however, denied the benzene was used in the factory. The men saw the wall falling on them but it came down so quickly that none of them could move to escape.
They ran for the lives.
A cry of terror from the crowd of people in the streets warned Chief Kiersted and Battalion Chief Morgan and a number of firemen in the street in front of the building of their danger and they ran for their lives. The fall of walls however crushed the other fireman through the roof to the floor below the smaller structure.
The screams of agony caused all the firemen and policemen in the street to rush to their aid, and as the victims were carried out they were placed in the patrol wagons and rushed to hospitals. Before the ambulance which carried fireman Bleyhle had gone a block away it was found that the man was dead and the body was taken to the morgue. There it was found that almost every bone his body was broken fireman Crane died about an hour after he had been taken to St. Michael’s Hospital.
Injury to Chief Kiersted.
Chief Kiersted had his right foot injured by falling over a box while trying to escape the falling walls. Battalion Chief Morgan had his left ankle and side injured. Portions of the front wall of the buildings struck him.
A Miraculous escape.
That all of these men were not killed was considered miraculous Chief Engineer Kiersted had said afterwards I did not expect to see one man who was on that roof, taken from that pile of bricks alive. I am glad that we did not lose more of our brave men then we did, as we cannot spare them. Firemen Jacob Bleyhle, William P. Crane and Leo Ross are among the best men in the department.
Who discovered the fire in question. Apparently a number knew of it at the same time, among them was engineer of central roads. All with the echoes in the morning hearing the shriek of whistles…
At 8:48:00 the fire alarm was turned in for a box 323 .
Chief Engineer Kiersted arrived at the fire soon after the first alarm sounded and had each of the first due engines run out two lines of hose than the blaze was hit from all sides.
The Hosewagon of Engine Company No. 1 on which the recently purchased a pair in also was placed was stationed at the front of the building and several lines of hose were attached to it with good results.
As the wall fell the two horses attached to the South scored twice broke away and jumped right upon No. 1 hose wagon a few feet away. As soon as possible the horses were taken off the wagon and was found that they were not seriously hurt.
The chief leads the way.
Before the noise of fallen wall had died away Chief Engineer Kiersted ‘s command to all the fireman near him to rescue the men under the pile of bricks, and unmindful of others who responded to the chiefs call for help. There were cops as well as firemen.
In a few minutes the bricks were being removed at a great rate and the timber was being hauled to the side. In the meantime a call had been sent to Police Headquarters. It sent all the ambulances in the city to the fire scene and when they arrived the injured firemen were tenderly lifted into them and taken to St. Barnabas and St. Michael’s Hospitals. As there were not enough ambulances to carry all the men away, vehicles of all kinds were pressed into service, and in 15 minutes after the wall had fallen, every one of the men had been taken from the scene of the conflagration.
Fire Commissioner Burke arrived on the scene shortly after the last man was taken away. And he was greatly distressed when he learned of the terrible accident. While firemen were at work rescuing the injured men, a number of electric light and telephone wires fell upon the rescuers, but none of them was injured as the rubber coats and boots save them.
One of the most troubling scenes at the fire after the injured men had been taken away was a pile of the fire hats that had been worn by the firemen. Had been placed in a heep on the sidewalk nearby. There were eight hats altogether but they were almost crushed flat giving evidence of the awful force of the fall of the bricks. It was realized that if it had not been for the stiffness of the leather hats many of those men would have had their skulls crushed.
Despite the general feelings of distress and sympathetic meant manifested by the spectators there were some wretched souvenir hunters who stole the number plates off the helmets and later three of the hats were carried away. It would not have been well for these relic hungry thieves to have been caught by the firemen that were working that day, as they were greatly angered when they learned that their hats worn by their stricken comrades had been stolen.