7-18-77...BUSHWICK MULTIPLE.

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July 18 is the anniversary of the Tenth Alarm arson Fire (3 arrests made) which started in a vacant factory @ Knickerbocker Ave & Bleeker St. & communicated to 45 bldgs on several blocks on 7-18-77....the afternoon temp hit 104 degrees....local stores that were not looted a week before in the Blackout had since sold out any liquid refreshments other than soda & juice ....no RAC units then either.....the 83 Precint sits on the factory site today....after this Fire the city organized the FDNY Red Caps saturating the ghetto areas w/Fire Marshalls (some who made arrests for everything even non fire related )....this basically was the "beginning of the end" of the FDNY War Years ......a heavy Fire Marshal presence of increased Marshal manpower coupled w/cracking down on insurance company payouts to arson suspected incidents ......

"Lord Jim " Ellson RIP was the LT in LAD*124 & was the 1st Unit on the scene....Barry "The Smile" Feeney RIP was the Chauf & was burned re positioning the TL when it started to go on Fire ........... nyfd.com/box-10-10-767.html
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... This was the third Multiple is was at for the original factory bldg this Fire started in .....the two previous ones were both on the same day awhile back .
 
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There is a Ret. Fireman friend down here in Florida who belongs to our Ret. Grp who was working that tour and it was his first tour driving the Super Pumper,I'll try to get him to post something because the story he tells is incredable.
 
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It was this fire, which was right after the Blackout of 1977 that the City decided it was time to do something about the arson in New York City. I remember when a young juvinile was caught for setting this fire and his only concern was "Is my picture going to be in the papers". He had no remorse for what he had just done. I think the newspapers reported 23 buildings damaged or destroyed. I went down about two days later and counted 40. Either way, give or take a few.

  The War Years were about to come to an end after this fire. The city added 300 fire marshalls, called "Red Caps" because their trade mark was the red baseball caps they wore. The fires were now starting to be investigated and the people knew that if they got caught, the marshalls would do their best to build a case and proscute. In about a years time the fires started to go down. It would still remain busy with fire activity for the next ten years or so, but there seemed to be progress made in stopping the tide of the fire spread.

  While places like Bushwick and the lower East Side saw a drop in fires, the West Bronx probadly saw an increase. But overall it was good news. The arson city wide was finally slowing down. As I remember it, it was this historic fire that played a part in ending the so called FDNY War Years.

  Jack (JOR...), driving the Super Pumper for the first tour into this job ! I probadly would have taken a wrong turn and drove home instead.
 
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There was also a major change In the welfare laws in 1977. One provision of the new law eliminated the automatic relocation (after a fire ) of recipients to government funded alternative housing. Within a year the number of fires dropped precipitously across the City. Go look at the numbers. The impact of the change of this law has been overlooked for years.
 
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Agreed ...I remember being at  Fire's in the '70s & the residents wanting to be relocated or as the practice was at one time to go to the head of the line for Public Housing & then getting pissed off when the powers that be told them the place was still livable & they could stay there & then returning later to a much more serious (suspicious) Fire . 
 
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At our monthly "Board Meeting" here in Virginia with FDNY War Year vets, we had the opportunity to hear accounts of this fire from several fireman that were on the first due companies to this box.  One was a guest, his name was Richie (?) who was visiting Eddie F from 124 Truck and made the "meeting".  Richie was working in 112 Truck on the day of this fire.  He talked about how he and the other fireman from 112 were just trying to find a cool spot in the firehouse and hoping no big jobs would come in. Within a few minutes, the box came in for this job at Knickerbocker and Bleeker. He said as they responded in, there was a collective "Holy ****" from the crew on 112 as they approached the job. When 112 arrived, they went to work evacuating civilians in the exposures across the street from the original fire building.  The exposures were beginning to light up (you can see this in one of the photos of the incident) and they ran through searching and pushing occupants out any exit they could find.  At one time they became trapped for a short time, but were able to make it out.  As this was going on, 124 Truck was setting up on the corner.  As has been told before, 124 had to abandon their rig due to radiant heat.  Eddie F talked about how the LCC from 124, at great risk, was able to make it back to the rig and move it undercover of hoselines. It speaks to the toughness of the Macks that they rig was relocated and then operated on the fire (although scorched) for the rest of the fire.

I know many of you have memories of this fire, but I feel so fortunate to have been able to sit with these Vets of the War Years and hear this first hand account from them.  I cannot remember Richie's last name, but he retired as an LT or Captain in Queens.  I need to get a tape recorder in front of these men when we have our "board meetings", so this history can be retained and passed down to future generations. 
 
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"fltpara16", thanks for taking the time to tell that story. I had never seen anything like that. There were blocks that were burned out. That four or five story factory building where I think they said the fire started, a church, a three story frame and a few blocks of three or four story wood frames. There were parked cars that were damaged. People lost so much but in that fast spreading fire, I don't think any body lost their life. Probably because of firefighters like you say who were there.

A very hot humid day with thousands of gallons of water running down the streets from so many open hydrants.

For me as a buff, it's still difficult to believe how bad things were then. My first buff trip to Bushwick I saw a second alarm (Evergreen Ave ?). It was in an entire block of row frames. Fire spread across the entire cockloft of this block long complex of buildings. It was about 11:00 am on a school day. From seeing all the young kids in the street, it looked like nobody went to school that day.

It was also the first fire that I had used a sound movie camera to film. I was only able to video tape about 3-5 minutes of this. When I showed this video to the guys in the firehouse in Ct, they could not believe that this fire only went to a second alarm and that nobody went to school in that neighborhood.
 
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