FDNY and NYC Firehouses and Fire Companies - 2nd Section


Aug 8, 2009
Engine 282:



    James Dingee, Engine 282, enlisted in the US Navy during World War II.  His armed service number was  8087463. He was killed in action as a firefighter in combat when his ship was attacked by enemy aircraft. FF Dingee was assigned to the USS Narragansett (AT-88), a Navajo-class fleet tug constructed for the United States Navy during World War II. Her purpose was to aid ships, usually by towing, on the high seas or in combat or post-combat areas, plus "other duties as assigned." She served in the Atlantic Ocean and, at war?s end, returned home proudly with three battle stars to her credit.  At 0430 hours on 23 August, the Luftwaffe raided Palermo, with bombs scoring on nearby service craft and a near miss wounding two of AT-88's crew. Narragansett's remaining crew immediately set to work to aid the damaged vessels despite explosions which exacted a heavy toll among the firefighters and damage control sections. Six were dead and 12 seriously wounded before it was over. FF Dingee was one of the firefighters KIA.






    RIP. Never forget.


Aug 8, 2009
Engine 68/Ladder 49 firehouse  1160 Ogden Avenue Highbridge, Bronx  Division 6, Battalion 17  "The House on the Hill"

    Combination Engine 68 organized 1080 Ogden Avenue                                    1898
    Combination Engine 68 became Engine 68                                                      1908
    Engine 68 new firehouse 1160 Ogden Avenue w/Ladder 49                              1979

    Ladder 49 organized 1079 Nelson Avenue                                                      1913
    Ladder 49 moved 1080 Ogden Avenue at  Engine 68                                        1947
    Ladder 49 new firehouse 1160 Ogden Avenue w/Engine 68                              1979

First Highbridge FDNY unit:

    Ladder 19 organized 1187 Ogden Avenue                                                        1880
    Ladder 19 disbanded                                                                                    1898

Pre-FDNY Highbridge volunteer company:

    Cataract Engine 3

1080 Ogden Avenue - Engine 68/Ladder 79 previous quarters - EMS 17 current quarters:





1079 Nelson Avenue - Ladder 49 previous quarters:



1160 Ogden Avenue:








Engine 68:












Ladder 49:








Engine 68/Ladder 49:




Engine 68/Ladder 49:



Engine 68/Ladder 49 history:

    ENGINE 68 & LADDER 49  from GovServ

    Engine 68 & Ladder 49 100 Years of Service to High Bridge Prior to being settled in the late 1800's, much of the Bronx was very rural and was governed by Westchester County. In the 1800's, residents of Manhattan would utilize ferries to cross the Harlem River to "vacation" or get away from the bustling city-life in the rocky, open areas of The Bronx. One of the small villages located in the southwest Bronx became known as High Bridge. The name was derived from the water bridge (aqueduct) that carried water as part of the Croton Aqueduct, crossing the Harlem River supplying Manhattan with fresh water. Construction of The High Bridge was started in 1837 and was completed in 1848. It spanned over 1,200 feet, and had the appearance of a Roman aqueduct with multiple stone arches spanning the entire length. Two of the original High Bridge engineers later participated in designing Manhattan's St. Patrick's Cathedral. In 1928, in order to facilitate river navigation many of the masonry arches were demolished. They were replaced with a single steel arch that spanned the river. Eleven of the original masonry arches still remain today. The aqueduct supplied water to Manhattan until the 1950's. The walkway was closed permanently in the 1970's when residents of the rapidly deteriorating neighborhood were dropping rocks and debris onto the Major Deegan Expressway and on boats in the Harlem River. Currently a multi-million dollar restoration project is underway to re-open the bicycle and pedestrian path that connects High Bridge to Washington Heights. Work is slated to be complete in 2014. Until 1874, various volunteer fire companies provided fire protection to many areas of the Bronx. On January 1st 1874 the land west of the Bronx River to the Harlem River including the towns of Morrisania, West Farms and Kingsbridge were annexed into New York City from Westchester County. Prior to the annexation fire protection of High Bridge was the responsibility of Cataract Engine 3. After annexation, New York City placed in service two steam fire engines, four chemical engines and two ladder companies to cover the newly annexed area. In April 1879, Mr. S. G. Courtney and other High Bridge citizens petitioned City Hall for a fire company to be located at Ogden Avenue and Wolf Street (present day 169th Street). On March 17th, 1960, the FDNY placed Ladder 19 in service with a ladder truck, and a double-tank chemical engine company. Both units were located at 1187 Ogden Avenue in a lease building (currently the new three story apartment building located adjacent to the gas station diagonal from present-day quarters). The owner of this building, the estate of William B. Ogden, set the rent for this building at $700 per year. After several years, the owner allowed the building to fall into disrepair and the city pursued a new location to house FDNY companies. On March 3rd, 1894, New York City purchased property located on Ogden Avenue between 165th Street and 166th Street for $3,250, and started construction of the firehouse. On August 23rd, 1898 Combination Engine 68 was placed into service at 1080 Ogden Avenue. On the same day Ladder Company 19 was disbanded (until being reorganized as present day Ladder 19 on November 12th, 1898), and the eleven man crew of Ladder 19 were transferred to Combination

    Combination Engine 68. The company was assigned all new apparatus: An American LaFrance 4th size steamer, a Gleason & Bailey 40' roller frame ladder truck, and a Sebastian hose wagon. One captain commanded the Combination Companies and a lieutenant rode on the ladder truck. Engine 68 was painted on each rig, and could be manned by any member assigned to the company. A response could consist of all three units or the ladder truck only. On February 15th, 1908, Ladder Company 36 was placed in service at Engine Company 43, covering Morris Heights and High Bridge. Combination Engine 68's Gleason & Bailey ladder company was removed from front-line service. The early 1900's saw rapid growth in High Bridge, and the over-worked members of Engine 68 were feeling the need for a full-time ladder company. On December 23rd, 1913, Ladder Company 49 was placed in service in a new firehouse at 1079 Nelson Avenue located directly behind Engine 68's quarters. Engine 68 and Ladder 49 remained in this configuration, in different firehouses and responding onto different streets for over 30 years. After World War II, New York City conducted a study aimed at closing and combining firehouses. Shortly thereafter, Ladder 49's firehouse on Nelson Avenue was closed, and they were moved into Engine 68's quarters on Ogden Avenue and piggybacked. Engine 68 was parked in front of Ladder 49 in a single-door firehouse in a single-file configuration. Ladder 49's quarters at 1079 Nelson Avenue is privately owned, and still stands today. The 1898 firehouse located at 1080 Ogden Avenue was of English Tudor design, and was the only firehouse in New York City to have this look and design. The building had a single door for the apparatus to exit, and a housewatch located in the front. The second floor front housed the officer's room and sleeping quarters. Directly behind the officer's quarters was one large sitting room for leisure time between alarms. The firemen's bunk-room and bathroom were located in the rear of the second floor. The third floor had another large sitting room and lockers for the firemen. Due to the age of the building, the firehouse was remodeled in the 1960's. As a result of the remodel, the original English Tudor appearance was removed, as well as the original front dormer. On September 19th 1979 a newly built two-bay, two-story firehouse located at 1160 Ogden Avenue was placed in service and is the present day company quarters of Engine Company 68 and Ladder Company 49. The previous company quarters at 1080 Ogden Avenue is still in use by the city as EMS Battalion 17 today. Several members of Engine 68 and Ladder 49 have made the Supreme Sacrifice in performance of their duties to New York City and their country. On January 11th, 1946 Fireman George M. Williams (L-49), serving as a Corporal in the U.S. Army was Killed in Action while serving in World War II. His military records indicate his theater as "India", and that he was serving as a "Personnel Officer. He was 26 years old, and is buried in Long Island National Cemetary in Farmingdale, NY. On January 31st, 1965 Fireman James F. Hipple (L-49) was killed from injuries sustained while operating at Box 75-2575 located at Gerard Avenue and East 167th Street. Fireman Hipple was 39 years old and had 12 years on the job when he was killed.


Ladder 49 medals:

    GUY R. SCARCELLA FF. LAD. 49 FEB. 15, 1972 1973 KENNY

    THOMAS R. BOYLE LT. LAD. 49 DEC. 23, 1981 1982 TREVOR-WARREN


    HARRY WANAMAKER, JR. LT. LAD. 49 SEP. 29, 1983 1984 COLUMBIA


    SANTO P. GOLANDO FF. LAD. 49 MAY 23, 1985 1986 CONRAN


    FRANK J. MIALE LT. LAD. 49 MAY 23, 1985 1986 BROOKMAN


Engine 68/Ladder 49 LODDs:


          FF James W Thompson died as a result of injuries April 27, 1915.  While responding to Box 433, Engine 68 collided into a trolly car.  FF Thompson and 2 horses lost their lives.



          FF George M. Williams served as a Corporal in the US Army in World War II. His theater of war was India.



          Fireman James F. Hipple responded to Bronx Box 7-5-2575, Gerard Avenue and East 167th Street, at 7:10 in the morning. The company returned to quarters and Fireman Hipple went home at 9:00 a.m. He was walking to his car and collapsed in the street. He was taken to the hospital were he died from a massive heart attack. He was appointed to the Fire Department and Ladder 49 on January 1, 1953. He was thirty-nine years old. (From "The Last Alarm"

    RIP.  Never forget.

WTC illness death:

    FIREFIGHTER Michael O'Hanlon Engine 68 August 27, 2017














Aug 8, 2009
Battalion 17 Highbridge Station FDNY/EMS 1080 Ogden Avenue, Highbridge, Bronx

    Battalion 17 EMS Bronx was organized on March 17, 1996

    Battalion 17 was reorganized on 11/16/98 under the Command of Captain J.R. Rivera.







WTC illness death:

    EMT Felix Hernandez, Battalion 17 2004


    RIP. Never forget.

Aug 29, 2008
I had the pleasure of working for and with Capt. Rivera when we were both in Queens. A great boss and nice guy!


Aug 8, 2009
"Arson in New York - 1985"

    - Study prepared by Arson Task Force

May 6, 2010
A lengthy but interesting synopsis  of a great time in FDNY History .....i did work thru that period & it was busy however i have to wonder as high as these numbers reported are were some skewed lower as the NYC crime statistics of today seem to be ?


Aug 8, 2009
HBO Documentaries - A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY



Aug 8, 2009
Engine 75/Ladder 33/Battalion 19  -  2/16/89 working fire


    Note - FF Dan Heglund - Ladder 33 chauffer in video - died from WTC-related illness - RIP.



Aug 8, 2009
Fire Commissioner Presides over FDNY Dispatchers Recognition Ceremony

September 20, 2018


On Thursday, September 20th, Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro presided over the recognition ceremony for 72 fire and EMS dispatchers at FDNY Headquarters in Brooklyn.

?Dispatchers are the initial and critical link between New Yorkers who need our help and the brave men and women of the FDNY who respond to more than 1.7 million emergencies each year,? said Commissioner Nigro. ?They are experts in providing medical instructions by phone, navigating callers to safety, and assigning essential resources to support the life-saving work of our Firefighters, EMTs, and Paramedics.?

Dispatchers were recognized for their work on several notable incidents involving FDNY operations. Incidents include, the vehicle attack in Times Square in May 2017, the active shooter incident at Bronx Lebanon Hospital, a crane collapse in Long Island City that rescued trapped workers and an all hands fire involving the successful rescue of a trapped mother and child.

?Dispatching is the game of seconds and seconds count in our business,? said Chief of Department James E. Leonard. ?You make sure the entire city is protected.?

Captain Hugo Sosa led a team of dispatchers in response to the Long Island City incident in June 2017. Recalling the incident, he stated, ?as soon as the call came in, I knew it was going to be a tedious job, because knowing the area, it was a tight area, it was all hands on deck as with the specialized rescue units arriving on scene, and the necessity of having those units is what made everything go smoothly.?

Captain Sosa has been with the Department for 27 years, serving as a mentor for many younger dispatchers.
?Dispatchers are the brainstem of the organization ? everything has to start through 911, when New Yorkers call, we have to get it right, the right ambulance, the right personnel, the right resources to the job,? said Captain Sosa. ?The most rewarding part of being a dispatcher is the ability to bring the job or bring 911 to the patient or all New Yorkers.?
Dispatcher Christopher Orlando is receiving the 2016 Dispatcher of the Year award.  As a seasoned radio operator, he helped dispatch and direct fire units to the all hands fire involving trapped occupants.

?I was the radio operator that day, we wanted to make sure to instruct the truck and ladder company to get to the  mother and child, therefore I had to make sure, to get information correct,? said Dispatcher Orlando. ?The fire units rely on us to have the address and situation so they can arrive on scene to do their job, this job requires focus, patience, ability to multitask, as many units speak to you for situational awareness.?

Dispatcher Orlando?s brother, Gregory Orlando retired after serving as a FDNY Firefighter for 35 years.
?I always had a love for the fire department, my brother retired as a Firefighter and my father was very proud when he joined the Department,? said Dispatcher Orlando. ?I will be thinking about my father at the award ceremony as he passed away before I joined the Department, I am sure he would be proud we both joined the FDNY.?
For photos of the recognition ceremony

    - https://www1.nyc.gov/site/fdny/news/fa7918/fire-commissioner-presides-fdny-dispatchers-recognition-ceremony#/0


Aug 8, 2009
Engine 155/Ladder 78 firehouse 14 Brighton Ave  New Brighton, Staten Island  Division 8, Battalion 21 "The Hot Corner"

    Engine 205 organized 80 Jersey Street former volunteer firehouse                                1905
    Engine 205 moved to 223 Jersey Street                                                                      1907
    Engine 205 became Engine 155                                                                                  1913
    Engine 155 moved to new firehouse 14 Brighton Avenue w/Ladder 78                          1931

    Ladder 103 organized 3 Brook Street                                                                          1905
    Ladder 103 became Ladder 78                                                                                    1913
    Ladder 78 new firehouse 14 Brighton Avenue w/Engine 155                                          1931

    Rescue 5 organized 14 Brighton Avenue at Engine 155                                                  1948
    Rescue 5 disbanded                                                                                                    1962
    Rescue 5 reorganized 1850 Clove Road at Engine 160                                                  1984


    Brighton Engine 4 80 Jersey Street              1856-1905


    Tompkins Hose 6 3 Brook Street                  1890-1905

Engine 155 at 223 Jersey Street:

1922 ALF engine

Ladder 78 at 3 Brook Street:



    3 Brook Street former firehouse today:


14 Brighton Avenue:







Engine 155:










Ladder 78:











Rescue 5 (1948-1962):





    Rescue 5 was organized at Engine 155/Ladder 78, 14 Brighton Ave firehouse, in 1948. The apparatus was a 1941 Ward LaFrance hose wagon modified by the shops.  Ladder 78 performed double duty as ladder and rescue.  It was staffed with an officer and 7 firefighters.  Engine 155 had one officer and 6 firefighters for manpower flexibility. Ladder 78 members would place a blue slip-over front piece when they responded as Rescue 5. When they responded as the truck, they always left a man back in quarters as the Rescue chauffeur to be able to respond with the Rescue rig to the Ladder 78 fire.  They picked up the Ladder 78 members and responded to the Rescue incident location.  The chief at the original fire was assigned another truck company to replace Ladder 78.  He also had the responsibility to return Ladder 78's rig after the fire.

    Chiefs were required to return Ladder 78 to service whenever operating ASAP to be available for Rescue 5 runs.  On multiple alarms, if either Ladder 78 or Rescue 5 was assigned, the Richmond dispatcher also assigned the other unit.  The chief then could put either Ladder 78 to work as a truck or Rescue 5 as a rescue.


    Ladder 78 did not relocate and the dispatcher filled out relocation assignments by special calls. The open Rescue 5 rig was modified by the members with an enclosed body over the old hose wagon hose bed to protect members and equipment and to better match the other Rescues.

    Rescue 5 was disbanded in 1962 after the VN bridge opened.  Rescue 2 covered SI.  They were assigned on 3rd alarms, or as needed. Rescue 5 was reorganized in 1984 at Engine 160 for SI responses.  Rescue 5 would later be assigned responses into Brooklyn.

Engine 155 3rd alarm Victory Boulevard 1991:


Ladder 78 multiple alarm:


Engine 155/Ladder 78:




Aug 8, 2009
Engine 155/Ladder 78 (cont.)

Engine 155/Ladder 78 medals:



    JAMES J. LEAHY LT. LAD. 78 DEC. 13, 1942 1942 1943 DOUGHERTY

    CARLO A. ANDERSEN FF. LAD. 78 NOV. 19, 1961 1961 1962 KANE




          Rescued 3 children at a second alarm 26 Stuyvesant Place, St. George.

    CHARLES V. SCARAMUZZO FF. LAD. 78 DEC. 15, 1962 1962 1963 HUGH BONNER


          Rescued 3 children at a second alarm 26 Stuyvesant Place, St. George



          Appointed to the FDNY on July 11, 1981. Previously assigned to Ladders 9, 80, 101 and 148 and Rescue 5. Member of the Emerald and Holy Name Societies and the Columbia Association. Cited for bravery on five previous occasions. 

          August 2, 1999, 0306 hours, Box 2-2-229, 190 Bay Street, Staten Island 

          Another month had begun in a long, hot summer for the members of Ladder 78 and Engine 155 on the North Shore of Staten Island. Firefighter Stephen Fenley was working an average night tour on August 1, 1999. The members had several routine runs and a good meal behind them by midnight and the neighborhood seemed to have quieted down. However, there was a hatred fomenting that would turn to murder shortly after three in the morning on August 2nd. A flammable liquid was spread throughout the interior stairway of 190 Bay Street and the fire was released on the sleeping residents. At 0306 hours, the computer at the Brighton Avenue firehouse spit out a phone alarm for a fire at the address. As the rigs were pulling out of quarters, the dispatcher assured them that from the volume of calls they were receiving, there was a working fire in progress and police were at the scene. The short distance from quarters made it a fast response for both companies. As they pulled up to the three-story, non-fireproof, multiple dwelling, there was heavy smoke spewing from every window and a raging inferno in the interior stairway. The other vehicles already on the scene made it difficult to place the apparatus near the fire building. FF Steve Fenley had the roof man position. As he was helping the chauffeur position the aerial ladder to the roof, a victim in great distress appeared at the third-floor window. There were no fire escapes on the building and the flames in the hallway blocked the victim?s exit as well as the entry of the inside attack team. Someone had to reach him. 

          Engine 155 was able to charge a line and advanced somewhat into the hallway, but a new problem soon became evident. FF Fenley heard his officer, Lieutenant Matthew Cichminski, report to Battalion 21 that the interior stairs had been burned away from the second to the third floor. This meant that an interior rescue advanced from a degree of difficult to impossible. As FF James Marshall repositioned the ladder to the front window, FF Fenley informed his officer that roof operations would be delayed for an exterior rescue. The victim was visible in the billowing smoke only because his clothing already had caught fire. As the firefighter climbed the ladder toward the victim, the victim collapsed back into the thick, acrid smoke belching from the window, an indication that flashover was imminent. With complete disregard for his own safety, FF Fenley dove headfirst into the window and was pushed to the floor by the high heat condition in the room. Sixty-one-year-old Carl Pandolfo had fallen away from the window, making it hard for FF Fenley to locate him quickly. As the firefighter tried to pull Mr. Pandolfo toward the window, the burnt skin falling from his body made it difficult to get a secure grip. Eventually, his removal required that FF Fenley throw him over his shoulder and stand up in order to get him out the window. FF Fenley didn?t hesitate when his helmet and safety hood were dislodged as he headed out the window. The predicted flashover occurred as the rescuer placed Mr. Pandolfo on the aerial ladder.

          FF Fenley suffered burns to the back of his head, face and ears. Despite his own burns and other injuries, he covered the badly burned man from the flames licking out the window as FF Marshall repositioned the ladder. Once the chauffeur positioned them away from the fire that now was consuming the entire top floor, FF Fenley descended the ladder as Mr. Pandolfo clung to the last vestiges of his life. He was removed to the burn center of Staten Island University North with second and third degree burns on 100 percent of his body. Despite FF Fenley?s valiant efforts and constant medical attention, Mr. Pandolfo succumbed to his injuries the following morning. The explosion of flames on the top floor mandated the removal of all firefighting forces and an exterior operation was used to extinguish the inferno. Once the two-alarm blaze had been brought under control, two more bodies were discovered inside and the murder toll was increased to three. For his bravery and courage in putting his own life at great personal risk to try to save another, the Fire Department is proud to honor FF Stephen P. Fenley.

Engine 155/Ladder 78 LODDs:

    LIEUTENANT ROBERT J. RYAN, JR. ENGINE 155 November 23, 2008


          Veteran FDNY lieutenant Robert Ryan dies heroically in Staten Island fire - November 23, 2008   

              A veteran FDNY lieutenant died this morning when a ceiling collapsed on him as he battled a surging fire in a Staten Island home, officials said. Lt. Robert Ryan?s mask and air supply were knocked off by the falling debris, which sent him hurtling to the floor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. Carried out by his fellow firefighters, an unconscious Ryan, 46, was rushed to Richmond University Medical Center but could not be revived.

              Ryan, a 17-year-veteran of the FDNY, led the first unit of firefighters into the burning two-story home at 39 Van Buren St. in New Brighton at 12:32 a.m., less than four minutes after being dispatched. His group stretched a hose into the building in order to quickly get water on the fire, which had ignited in the home?s attic. Ryan, who was assigned to Engine 155, and the other men were in the home?s second floor when the ceiling above them ? weakened by the fast-moving flames ? suddenly gave way.

              "I just want to ask all New Yorkers to say a prayer for Robert Ryan, a brave man who lost his life protecting this city," said a somber Mayor Bloomberg, who was flanked by fire officials at an early-morning hospital press conference to announce the death.

              Though fire marshals are still investigating what ignited the small blaze, FDNY officials said it appeared to have been sparked by wiring in the attic. It does not appear suspicious, officials said. A lifelong Staten Island resident, Ryan had two children ? Chris, 17, and Kayla, 12 ? and two step-children ? Alex, 10, and Emma, 8 ? with his wife Kathleen, Mayor Bloomberg said.

              Ryan joined the FDNY in 1991 and was promoted to lieutenant in March 2001. He worked in three Brooklyn firehouses before being transferred to Engine 6 in Manhattan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.

              "He helped rebuild a firehouse which lost four men," said FDNY Chief of Department Salvatore Cassano, who added that Ryan had been badly burned on duty in 2005 and worked for more than a year to rejoin the Fire Department. "He was an experienced, dedicated fireman," Cassano said.

              Ryan is the second firefighter to die in the line of duty this year. The woman who lives in the building was sleeping when the fire ignited, but she ran out safely after she was alerted by a neighbor who smelled the smoke.

              "I?m just glad I could help a neighbor," said Helen Collins, who pounded on the front door until the woman escaped into the frigid night air. Collins? father, Gregory, a retired city cop, placed three white candles outside his home as a tribute to the fallen firefighter. "It?s sorrow when something happens to one of them out there," said Gregory Collins. " trying to save our lives."

              The two-alarm fire was put under control at 1:31 a.m. No other injuries were reported, officials said.

              - from Firefighterclosecalls.com


          Fireman John Dwyer fell eighty feet from the Department of Plant and Structures coal pockets at the end of the ferry terminal. Fireman Dwyer died before arriving at the Staten Island Hospital. His injuries were a fractured skull and internal injuries. The firemen had a tough time fighting this two-alarm fire with the extreme cold and the inaccessible position of the coal pocket.

          Fireman Dwyer had stayed after his shift to joke with the on-duty platoon. The alarm came in at 8:46 in the morning and Dwyer responded with his company. He and another fireman were ordered to the roof of the coal pocket with a hose line. Between the wind, ice and whipping of the hose line, Fireman Dwyer lost his footing and fell off the roof. His brother assigned to Engine 77, the fireboat Zophar Mills, watched in horror as he saw his brother fall from the roof. Dwyer, who spent nine years with Ladder 78, was married and the father of five small children. (From "The Last Alarm")



          Rescue 5, manned by the members of Ladder 78, responded to an early morning 5 alarm fire on November 16, 1959 at Brody?s Children Shop, 161 Port Richmond Avenue.  FF Edward J. Campbell was killed when part of the building collapsed.   

    RIP.  Never forget.

Engine 155/Ladder 78 WTC-related deaths:








New Brighton/Tompkinsville/St.George:






Mar 3, 2007
Rest In Peace Captain John Graziano former Captain of Ladder 78. World Trade Center victim, firefighter in TL-172 and Lieutenant L-132.


Aug 8, 2009
1261Truckie said:
Rest In Peace Captain John Graziano former Captain of Ladder 78. World Trade Center victim, firefighter in TL-172 and Lieutenant L-132.

CAPTAIN JOHN GRAZIANO - died from WTC-related illness.


        John R. Graziano Sr., of Eltingville, a retired FDNY captain whose commitment to his family, his FDNY brothers and the citizens of New York City was absolute, died Friday at home, under hospice care. Born and raised in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, he graduated from Lafayette High School in his native borough. Mr. Graziano earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from St. John's University, Queens.

    He had a 26-year career with the FDNY, with his first assignment being Ladder Co. 172 in Bensonhurst. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1994, and, after a stint as a covering officer in the 15th Division in Brooklyn, went to Ladder Co. 132 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was promoted to captain in 2003, and assigned to Ladder Co. 78, "The Hot Corner," in New Brighton. He retired from Ladder 78 in 2008. Mr. Graziano was a member of the FDNY Columbian Association and an active member of the NYC Fire Riders Motorcycle Club, a passion he developed after retiring. He also was trained in scuba diving. He loved to work out at the gym before he became ill. He also was an excellent cook and grillmaster, known as one of the best for the fine Italian meals he made in the firehouse. Mr. Graziano cherished his family and was a doting grandfather who was anticipating the birth of his fourth grandchild. He was a parishioner of St. Clare's R.C. Church, Great Kills.

    RIP. Never forget.



Aug 8, 2009
Engine 59/Ladder 30  firehouse 111 W. 133rd Street  Harlem, Manhattan  Division 6, Battalion 16 ?The Harlem Zoo?

    Engine 59 organized 180 W. 137th Street                                  1894
    Engine 59 new firehouse 111 W. 133rd Street w/ Ladder 30        1962

    Ladder 30 organized 104 W. 135th Street                                  1907
    Ladder 30 new firehouse 111 W. 133rd Street w/Engine 59          1962

    Squad 1 organized 180 W. 137th Street at Engine 59                  1955
    Squad 1 new firehouse 111 W. 133rd Street at Engine 59            1962
    Squad 1 moved 451 E. 176th Street at Ladder 58                      1972
    Squad 1 moved 925 E. Tremont Street at Engine 45                  1975
    Squad 1 disbanded                                                                  1976
    Ambulance 1 located 111 W. 133rd Street at Engine 59        1972-1987

111 W. 133rd Street:








Engine 59:







Ladder 30:










Squad 1 at Engine 59/Ladder 30:





Ambulance 1 at Engine 59/Ladder 30:



Engine 59:




Ladder 30 Centennial:

    Harlem's Ladder 30 Celebrates 100th Anniversary
    NY 1 - May 21, 2007

They're known as the Harlem Zoo - a nickname earned by fighting fires in the ever-changing neighborhood over the last 100 years. NY1's Gary Anthony Ramsay filed the following report.

It was a centennial celebration in Harlem.

For 100 years Ladder company 30 has served this community. On Saturday, tributes to its storied past helped celebrate its birthday.

"The guys that were on the job when I came on the job, we had some World War II vets, and we used to kid them quite a lot," said FDNY Battalion Commander Frank Donnelly.

"The first thing I have to do is straighten out a rumor that Lieutenant Lester Kirk and Chief Billmore we here when the company was organized 100 years ago," said FDNY Chief William Siegal.

They may not have been around back then, but through the century, brothers long gone answered the call. The FDNY says Ladder 30 was the first company to respond to the General Slocum steamer fire in 1904. More than 1,000 died - most of them children.

Then there was the infamous Collyer Brothers' Mansion incident in 1947.

"These two eccentric brothers amassed material, newspapers - they never threw anything out, and it was very hard to negotiate inside this four-story brownstone," said Ladder 30's Keith Nicoliello.

To help mark the occasion, the department's chaplain blessed new plaques honoring seven firefighters who died in the line of duty over the last 100 years.

Another plaque that represents the history of the company was also unveiled - a story that continues to write itself.
"As you continue to respond to each alarm that comes to you in this 21st century this new millennium, may this plaque remind you that every firefighter that has served in there 100 years still rides with you on every run," said FDNY chaplain, Father Chris Keenan.

And on every run 100 years ago and likely a hundred years from now.  (from UFA website)


Engine 59/Ladder 30:






Engine 59/Ladder 30 medals:

    JACOB GOLDSTEIN CAPT. ENG. 59 DEC. 15, 1950  1951 FDR


    FRANK NIEVES FF. ENG. 59 JAN. 23, 1971 1972 STEUBEN


    ROBERT L. CANTILLO LT. ENG. 59 MAR. 21, 1973 1974 STIEFEL

    THOMAS C. MOORE FF. ENG. 59 L-30 MAR. 6, 1992 1993 HISPANIC

    DAVID H. MULLEN FF. LAD. 30 DEC. 24, 1908 1909 WERTHEIM


    HAROLD J. BURKE CAPT. LAD. 30 APR. 22, 1928 1929 CRIMMINS

    FRANK J. HINES FF. LAD. 30 APR. 16, 1928  1929 VAN HEUKELOM

    EDWARD L. EGAN FF. LAD. 30 DEC. 10, 1929 1930 VAN HEUKELOM

    JAMES J. STEAKEM FF. LAD. 30 APR. 10, 1930 1931 PRENTICE


          LODD - FF James J. Steakem, Ladder 30, May 15, 1940

    THOMAS A. MC COY LT. LAD. 30 APR. 10, 1930 1931 BROOKMAN


    GERARD M. VON ACHEN FF. LAD. 30 MAR. 21, 1936 1937 SCOTT

    EDWARD J. NELSON FF. LAD. 30 JAN. 25, 1941 1942 HUGH BONNER

    EDMUND O'CONNELL FF. LAD. 30 FEB. 15, 1945 1946 LA GUARDIA

    JAMES P. TRAINOR FF. LAD. 30 NOV. 26, 1946 1947 BROOKMAN


    CLYDE J. WALTERS FF. LAD. 30 FEB. 27, 1952 1953 THIRD ALARM


    JOHN J. HUNT FF. LAD. 30 APR. 7, 1953 1954 THIRD ALARM


    FRANK P. SAVINO FF. LAD. 30 JAN. 30, 1955 1956 KANE


    LOUIS J. TESIO FF. LAD. 30 NOV. 25, 1970 1971 KENNY


    WILLIAM M. HAMMEL FF. LAD. 30 FEB. 6, 1974 1975 PULASKI






    BRUCE T. GARCIA FF. LAD. 30 DEC. 7, 1991 1992 CRIMMINS


    JAMES R. CURRAN FF. LAD. 30 AUG. 22, 1992  1993 SIGNAL 77



    JAMES R. CURRAN FF. LAD. 30 MAY 13, 1994 1995 CONRAN


    MICHAEL J. LYONS LT. LAD.30 AUG. 26, 2007 2008 MARTIN






Engine 59/Ladder 30 LODDs:


          FF Ray was assigned to Engine 59. On March 5, 1911, while responding to an alarm near West 138 Street & Madison Avenue (box 2-2-535), FF Ray was thrown from the wagon. He succumbed to his injuries on March 6.

          Police Lieutenant Malcolm Ray in charge of the Tremont Avenue police station in the Bronx had to notify families of serious injuries or deaths to family members within his precinct. On March 5, 1911 he was told that a fireman was seriously injured while responding to a two-alarm fire. The fireman was his brother Stephen Ray of Engine Company 59. The company was responding to a fire in a tenement house at 2160 Madison Avenue. As the tender swung around the corner, it slid into a hydrant throwing Ray to the ground. The rear wheel passed over his chest. He was placed in the hose wagon hurriedly taken to Harlem Hospital. His collarbone and several ribs had been broken and the physicians said that he had edema of the lungs and slight chance of recovery. He died the next day from his injuries. (from "The Last Alarm")





          Fireman James J. Steakem reported to the quarters of Ladder 30 at 4:00 p.m. for his regularly scheduled tour of duty. Ladder 30 responded to 2182 Lexington Avenue for a small fire at 5:28 p.m. The company returned to quarters at 5:40. At 6:45 Fireman Steakem reported to the company officer that he was suffering severe chest and stomach pains. An ambulance was called and Fireman Steakem was transported to Knickerbocker Hospital at 70 Convent Avenue. Doctors thought that he was suffering from a ruptured gastric ulcer, but at 2:10 a.m. on May 15 he died of a heart attack. Fireman Steakem was appointed to the Department on February 1, 1920 at the age of 33 and was married. He spent all of his time in the Fire Department in Ladder 30. (From "The Last Alarm)



          Edward James Nelson was a New York City Fireman assigned to Hook and Ladder 30. He had served in the United States Marine Corps from April 30th 1934 to April 29th 1938. During World War II, he was inducted into the United States Naval Reserve on August 11th, 1942, as a Lieutenant assigned to VRF-1 Squadron.  His armed service number was 192635. He died on active service on April 26th 1944.  (from National Archives)


Fireman Lawrence Franklin, Ladder 30, 16-year veteran, died as a result of injuries sustained while operating at Box 66-1577, Lenox Avenue and W. 138th Street.

    RIP.  Never forget.






Aug 8, 2009
Captain Mike Lyons:

FDNY Captain Mike Lyons, 19 year veteran (active) is in the fight of his life. Mike was diagnosed with an extremely rare Melanoma of his lungs as his primary cancer. A very aggressive Cancer with poor chances of surviving a year. A 9/11 WTC responder/rescuer who spent countless hours on site ,including volunteering for the initial task force where he participated in the initial search and recovery operations for three weeks. Mike has proudly spent his career in some of the finest fire companies in New York City Assigned E228, Rotation E59 and L153 transferred L148, promoted to Lt. and assigned to D6 and L30 Promoted to Captain assigned to D15. 




Aug 8, 2009
Engine 59/Ladder 30 - Collyer's Mansion:

FIREHOUSE - Collyer's Mansion Conditions

    The official name for the condition is "Collyers Mansion Syndrome," but for now we will learn were the term came from, so here is the story of the Collyer brothers.
    Thomas Cunningham  December 22, 2003

I received an email from Rob in Danvers Mass. who wanted to know if I had ever heard of a term called "Collier mansion condition," and if I found any information on it could I please forward it to him. This gentleman had found two references concerning this, but after reviewing information I could not determine what it meant.

The first reference I came across was that a firefighter from the FDNY had crawled through a "colliers mansion condition" to rescue two occupants and for this was rewarded one of the medals given out during an FDNY medal day presentation. I started to search for fire conditions or smoke conditions such as chimney, stack or wind effect. I sent out emails to everyone hoping for a lead. One of my associates responded that it was a "FDNY" term for a cluttered residence. My next move was to call the FDNY public education unit. I talked to a Captain who was on duty. He confirmed that it meant a residence that was cluttered by a collector or "pack rat." The official name for the condition is "Collyers mansion syndrome," but for now we will learn were the term came from, so here is the story of the Collyer brothers.

Dr. Herman L. Collyer and his wife the former Susie Gage Frost bore two male children in the years 1881 (Homer Lusk Collyer) and 1885 (Langley Collyer). The Collyer family resided in a section of New York City called Murray Hill. The Collyer family was descendants of a long line of aristocrats who had come to the new world onboard a ship named the "Speedwell". Langley Collyer would later state to a reporter that the Speedwell had a more prestigious passenger list than the Mayflower did. The Collyer family had deep roots in New York. Many of the relatives resided in or around the Hudson valley area for nearly 300 years.

In the year 1909, Dr. Collyer decided to move the family into a 4-story Brownstone mansion located at 2078 5th Ave. at 128 St. in Harlem. At the time Homer was 27, and Langley was 23 years of age and both were still living at home. The borough of Harlem at the time of the 1800's was considered to be both exclusive and fashionable due to a speculative development boom that had occurred. To the borough of Harlem this brought wealth and luxury. Harlem had been known for its lavish apartment buildings, museums, and institutions of culture and the neighborhood was prosperous.

Dr. Collyer was an eminent, well-known and wealthy Manhattan gynecologist at Bellevue Hospital in 1909. After the move to Harlem Dr. Collyer separated from his wife and two children. It is about this time that the brothers would begin to shut their lives off to the outside world. But Susie Collyer would continue to raise her children to be gentlemen and scholars. Susie Collyer was well educated and would read the classics of literature to her children in Greek. Both Langley and Homer would attend the prestigious Columbia University in New York City. Homer attended law school and after passing the New York City BAR exam would pursue admiralty law.

Homer who had graduated in 1904 earned an MA, LLB, and LLM. This type of law deals mainly with marine law, the law of marine insurance and the law of the sea, ships, shipping, fisheries and offshore oil and gas. Langley studied chemistry and mechanical engineering, but during this time he also developed a talent for playing the piano. Instead of gaining employment, Langley would devote his life instead to music.

Dr. Collyer Passed away in the year 1923. The doctor had amassed a collection of books, medical equipment and residential furniture in his home. Upon his death all of these belongings were moved to home on Fifth Avenue. This home would now have the belongings of two homes within one.

African-Americans in large numbers started to move into Harlem in the year 1911. Harlem was known as an upper-class predominately white suburb but by 1925 it would become an African-American community. While the whites who lived in Harlem moved out due to the influx of African-Americans the Collyer's decided to stay.

Homer started out by first gaining employment at the law offices John McMullen. Mullen had served as the Collyer's family lawyer for many years. Homer was employed there from 1928-29. Homer then changed jobs and moved to the City Title Insurance Company located at 32 Broadway in Manhattan. Homer would spend his days in the Hall of Records doing research. Homer was known as being sociable and easygoing gentleman who wore old-fashioned clothing with high-collars and who had elaborate sideburns. When people saw Homer he reminded them of Charles Dickens. In the year 1929 Susie Collyer would pass away and the sons would remain in the mansion.

Langley who studied engineering never held a paying job, but he occupied his time by always working on new inventions. Langley worked inventions like a vacuum device that would be used to clean the inside of a piano's. Another of Langley's ideas was how to make a model-T engine run by use of electricity. Homer Collyer would last be seen in public in 1932. It is believed that in 1933 Homer suffered a stroke causing hemorrhages to both his eyes that led to him becoming blind. Homer also suffered from rheumatism that would eventually paralyzed him. Seeing what had occurred to his brother and what had befallen him, Langley then dedicated his life caring for Homer.

The brothers had a personnel distrust for doctors. Having a wealth of approximately 15,000 medical journals to reference, Langley would experiment with different "magic potions" in an attempt to cure Homer of his blindness. Once such cure consisted of intentionally resting them by keeping them closed. Langley would feed Homer such strange food as black bread and peanut butter. One of the most unusual of these diets was that Homer would eat 100 oranges a week.

Langley would now have numerous tasks to carry out in the home. He would now have to care for Homer and perform the cleaning, feeding, clothing and provide for mental stimulus. Homer had failed in his many attempts to read in brail. Langley instead would read Homer the classics and play sonata's for him on one of the many pianos that were in the house. Langley was once asked why they possessed so many grand pianos, Langley stated that each piano tone gave a differing resonance and produced a different emotional effect on Homer. Along with the 14 grand pianos there were two organs and a clavichord. And as time went by the brother's seclusion grew greater.

At night people would see a man in the shadows walking the streets and search through the trash. Langley would soon get the name "The Ghost man of Harlem." Langley would roam the allies and city streets at night using a rope to pull a cardboard box. He dug through garbage cans for food and would beg for meat scraps from the nearby butcher. It was said that Langley would walk to Brooklyn to get loafs of stale bread. In rare occasions Langley would be seen peering through the door of a liquor store. Upon seeing in the store was nearly empty he would sneak in for medicinal purposes by a pint of whiskey.

For some reason that is unknown, Langley stopped payment on the house utilities and mortgage bills. When the payments stopped it is believed that the Collyer brothers had a fortune somewhere over 100,000 dollars. Soon the gas, electricity and water service was shut down for bills past due. For a time Langley attempted to create electricity by using the model-T Ford but that soon failed. For the preparation of meals and heating, the brothers were content on using small kerosene stove. A standpipe at Mount Morris Park provided water located four just blocks from there home. Langley would use demijohns to bring the water back to the home. Demijohns are very large bottles, which sometimes have a 10-gallon capacity. Some of these bottles were hand blown and were used to hold wine, molasses, and other liquids.

There was no phone service to the house because Langley once explained " we are being charged for long distance calls that they had never made." Langley also had a philosophy that there was no one whom he particularly cared to call. Langley was also asked once why his brother and him lived like recluses. Langley responded by saying that the lifestyle they lived was business between his brother and him. That it was no one else's business and that put simply they did not want to be bothered.

Due to their hermit lifestyle, rumors began to circulate throughout the Harlem neighborhood. One of those rumors was that the brothers were the richest people in New York and the fortune was hidden in the house. Rumors like this eventually led to attempted break-ins by people trying to steal the rumored fortune. But the house was not an everyday home and the amount of trash and rubbish thwarted the attempted robbers who attempted entering but had triggered the traps that deluged them but never trapped them.

To ward off further burglary attempts Langley began to board up all the windows. To add further deterrence he wired all the doors shut. Langley Collyer, being the engineering genius that he was decided to complicate things even more. If a burglar did manage to get through a window or door would he be able to find his way through a series of integrate tunnels, nests, walkways and interlocking tiers of cartons and boxes. The honeycombed tunnels were pure genius as Langley concealed many of them and some were engineered so well that they passed through rooms and sometimes floors. Only Langley could find his way through the maze, anyone else would have to remove the debris to do so. Langley would also place different types of "booby" traps through the maze. These traps were activated by rope or trip wires and if activated would collapse massive piles of newspapers, luggage or other debris down upon the unsuspecting intruder. In some cases this debris may have weighed tons.

The year was 1938 and the home was not messy, but by the year 1942 the house was now packed full of newspapers, crates, cartons, boxes, cans and other refuge from Langley's nightly excursions. The Collyer home was now a mountain of garbage. Langley had turned the home into a fortress of debris. When asked about the mass amounts of newspapers that were in the house Langley stated that he collected them for Homer. From the time of Homers blindness Langley would collect every newspaper printed in New York everyday in the hope that when Homer was finally cured of his blindness he would be able to read the papers to catch up with the news that he had missed. This was also the year that Langley stopped the mortgage payment.

The Bowery Savings Bank was the titleholder when the payments stopped in 1942. After a period of time the Bowery set out to collect their money, first by sending collectors to the Collyer home. The collectors would spend hours knocking on the door. These hours eventually turned into days then weeks and the Collyer's never once answered the repeated knocks. The Bowery also sent mail notices that only led to a pile of envelopes on the porch. Finally the Bowery Savings went to court requesting an order for eviction of the Collyer brothers.

While waiting for the eviction notice to be approved the Bowery Savings had hired a work crew to clean out the yard of the Collyer's mansion. The yard was cluttered with broken glass, furniture, bedsprings, washers and dryers, cabinets, etc. When the workers began to clear the yard of the accumulated junk, Langley Collyer began to yell at them from an upstairs window. Langley could be heard shouting, "You can't take that! You have no right! That's my property! Leave that alone!"

The Bowery Savings Bank received the court order to evict the Collyer's and officers of the NYPD were then sent to the mansion. Once at the mansion the officers repeatedly knocked on the door and received no reply. Police then smashed in the front door but their entry was impeded by trash. The trash was stacked about 5 feet high and contained newspapers, crates, boxes barrels and wire net.

The officers of the NYPD persisted through the debris and eventually caught up with Langley. Langley was finally found hiding in a clearing among the mountain of debris. Upon being tracked down he silently filled out a check for the amount of $6,700.00. Langley handed the check to the officers and ordered everyone to leave his home. The check paid off in full the balance owed to the Bowery Savings for the mortgage.

On March 21st 1947 at 8:53 am a mysterious phone call was made to the NYPD police headquarters from a man named Charles Smith. Smith reported that there was a dead body inside of 2078 fifth Ave. Around 10:00 am police arrived at the mansion to find a crowd gathered outside. Police roped off the area and began to force open the mahogany front doors with no success. Police then removed the doors from their hinges and were confronted with a solid wall of trash that reached to the ceiling. Officers then attempted to enter through the basement, but passage to the first floor was blocked by another wall made of packing cases. Officers then gained access by breaking through the shutters on the first floor. Inside they were confronted by ceiling high debris that was infested by rats. The stairs to the second floor were also impassable.

Two hours after their arrival police used a ladder to gain access through a second floor window. Officer William Barker entered the second story room and started to make his way through the ceiling high garbage. It took Barker several hours to navigate through the debris nest, tunnels and walkways but he eventually made it to a clearing within the maze. There he found Homer Collyer in a crouched position with his head on his knees, he had long hair and a long beard that reached to the floor and he was clothed only in a tattered robe. Homer was also dead and there was no sign of Langley. Was Langley hiding or had something happened to him as well.

The examiners report on Homers death would state that Homer had died as a result of starvation. Homer had no food in his stomach tract. Dr. Thomas Gonzales stated that Homer had nothing to drink or eat for approximately three days prior to his death. Homers body showed signs of dehydration and was severely emaciated. Other noticeable finding by the coroner was that Homer suffered from severe bronchitis, senile pulmonary emphysema and a large untreated bedsore that had become gangrenous.

Many of the Harlem neighbors had come to see what was happening but it did not take long for the smells coming from the house to drive the majority away. Only a few stayed and braved the odor. Building inspectors were called in to examine the safety of the structure. What they found inside was a world of rot. There was rotting garbage, newspapers and animals feces. What they found was that the building was also rotting away, mold had taken grip of the house due to opened windows and leaks in the roof. It was bad enough that bricks had lost there mortar and had begun falling from the house and that the walls and floors had started to buckle and rot under the load of debris within the house. And there was still no sign of Langley.

A city administrator and a court official soon took over responsibility of the Collyer home from the NYPD. The city's administrator hired professional movers on March 31st to begin cleaning the home of all debris.

They began at the basement entrance were the Collyer law library was located. The movers extracted approximately 2500 law and other related books but this would be only 1/10th of the total number of books in the house. Numerous family items were discovered and removed. This included oil painted family portraits, hope chests, silk and wool materials and finely crafted dishtowels.

By April 3rd the movers had taken from the house 51 tons of waste, and had only reached two rooms located on the 1st floor. On April 8th 103 tons had been removed and 19 days had passed. While combing through the debris a worker had noticed a rat the size of a cat in one part of the house. After retrieving a flashlight he probed the area and noticed a leg sticking out of the debris. The rodents had obviously fed upon the leg, but finally the search for Langley Collyer was over.

Langley had dead as a result of setting off one of his own "booby traps". Langley was found only eight feet from were Homer was found. Langley had been in the process of bringing Homer food. Langley had been wearing burlap, draped over his shoulders when it obviously snagged on a trip wire bringing down tons of debris upon himself. They only other clothing that Langley had on was a bathrobe, four pairs of pants, three jackets and had a scarf around his neck made from a white onion sack that was fastened with a safety pin. He did not have on any underwear or socks on. Langley had died on his right side and the rats fed upon his body as well. Now the story can be completed. Homer had heard the crash of the debris and had known what had just occurred. Homer was now alone and he sat and awaited death that would soon be coming.

Robert F. Wagner who at the time was the City of New York's Commissioner of Housing made a statement that the Collyer Home was unsafe and a menace to life and property in the neighborhood and would be demolished. A year later it was torn down.

The Public Administrators office made burial arrangements and both Homer and Langley were buried in the family plot at Cypress Hills Cemetery on April 11th. Many of the Collyer relatives discovered by the press did little but filed claims against the estate but no great wealth would ever come from the brother's holdings. The surrogate court released the figures on the Collyer's wealth in 1949. The wealth was broken down into:

Real estate: $60,000
Sale of personnel property: $4000
Savings: $2000

But claims buy the government would diminish these final numbers. There was 15,000 owed for estate taxes, and thousands owed in federal, state and city taxes. It is believed that of the forty claimants of the Collyer fortune that none of them ever received a penny of the brother's holdings.

This is a partial list of the valuables removed from the Collyer home, they include:

136 tons of debris
14 Grand pianos
2 organs
1 clavichord
Human medicine specimens (in glass jars)
Model-T Ford chassis
Approx 15,00 medical and engineering books
6 US flags
1 Union jack
1 x-ray machine
34 bank deposit books: balance $3007.18
Baby carriages
Plaster statues and chandeliers
Gardner baskets and picture frames
Old Christmas trees and press makers dummies
Bundles of sheet music
Newspapers: Langley collected every newspaper published in New York City since the years 1918. He did this in the hope that Homer would someday regain his sight. Langley once stated that he did that "so when Homer regains his sight he can catch up on the news".  (from https://www.firehouse.com/home/news/10529720/collyers-mansion-conditions)


Aug 8, 2009
Engine 59/Ladder 30:

A Spectacle of Horror ? The Burning of the General Slocum


The deadliest disaster in New York before 9/11 killed many women and children and ultimately erased a German community from the map of Manhattan

By Gilbert King
February 21, 2012

It was, by all accounts, a glorious Wednesday morning on June 15, 1904, and the men of Kleindeutschland?Little Germany, on Manhattan?s Lower East Side?were on their way to work. Just after 9 o?clock, a group from St. Mark?s Evangelical Lutheran Church on 6th Street, mostly women and children, boarded the General Slocum for their annual end-of-school outing. Bounding aboard what was billed as the ?largest and most splendid excursion steamer in New York,? the children, dressed in their Sunday school outfits, shouted and waved flags as the adults followed, carrying picnic baskets for what was to be a long day away.

A German band played on deck while the children romped and the adults sang along, waiting to depart. Just before 10 o?clock, the lines were cast off, a bell rang in the engine room, and a deck hand reported to Captain William Van Schaick that nearly a thousand tickets had been collected at the plank. That number didn?t include the 300 children under the age of 10, who didn?t require tickets. Including crew and catering staff, there were about 1,350 aboard the General Slocum as it steamed up the East River at 15 knots toward Long Island Sound, headed for Locust Grove, a picnic ground on Long Island?s North Shore, about two hours away.

Built in 1891 and owned by the Knickerbocker Steamboat Company, the General Slocum was made of white oak, locust and yellow pine and licensed to carry 2,500 passengers. The ship carried that many life preservers, and just a month before a fire inspector had deemed its fire equipment to be in ?fine working order.?

As the ship reached 97th Street, some of the crew on the lower deck saw puffs of smoke rising through the wooden floorboards and ran below to the second cabin. But the men had never conducted any fire drills, and when they turned the ship?s fire hoses onto the flames, the rotten hoses burst. Rushing back above deck, they told Van Schaick that they had encountered a ?blaze that could not be conquered.? It was ?like trying to put out hell itself.?

Onlookers in Manhattan, seeing the flames, shouted for the captain to dock immediately. Instead, Van Schaick, fearing the steering gear would break down in the strong currents and leave the Slocum helpless in midriver, plowed full speed ahead. He aimed for a pier at 134th Street, but a tugboat captain warned him off, fearing the burning ship would ignite lumber stored there. Van Shaick made a run for North Brother Island, a mile away, hoping to beach the Slocum sideways so everyone would have a chance to get off. The ship?s speed, coupled with a fresh north wind, fanned the flames. Mothers began screaming for their children as passengers panicked on deck. As fire enveloped the Slocum, hundreds of passengers hurled themselves overboard, even though many could not swim.

The crew distributed life jackets, but they too were rotten. Boats sped to the scene and pulled a few passengers to safety, but mostly they encountered children?s corpses bobbing in the currents along the tidal strait known as Hell Gate. One newspaper described it as ?a spectacle of horror beyond words to express?a great vessel all in flames, sweeping forward in the sunlight, within sight of the crowded city, while her helpless, screaming hundreds were roasted alive or swallowed up in waves.?

A witness reported seeing a large white yacht flying the insignia from the New York Yacht Club arrive on the scene just as the burning Slocum passed 139th Street. He said the captain positioned his yacht nearby and then stood on the bridge with his field glasses, ?seeing women and children jump overboard in swarms and making no effort to go to their assistance?he did not even lower a boat.?

Passengers trampled children in their rush to the Slocum?s stern. One man, engulfed in flames, leaped over the port side and shrieked as the giant paddle wheel swallowed him. Others blindly followed him to a similar fate. A 12 year-old boy shimmied up the ship?s flagstaff at the bow and hung there until the heat became too great and he dropped into the flames. Hundreds massed together, only to bake to death. The middle deck soon gave way with a terrific crash, and passengers along the outside rails were jolted overboard. Women and children dropped into the choppy waters in clusters. In the mayhem, a woman gave birth?and when she hurled herself overboard, her newborn in her arms, they both perished.

At Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, where patients with typhoid and other contagious diseases had been quarantined, staff spotted the burning vessel approaching and quickly prepared the hospital?s engines and hoses to pump water, hoping to douse the flames. The island?s fire whistle blew and dozens of rescuers moved to the shore. Captain Van Schaick, his feet blistering from the heat below, managed to ground the Slocum sideways about 25 feet from shore. Rescuers swam to the ship and pulled survivors to safety. Nurses threw debris for passengers to cling to while others tossed ropes and life preservers. Some nurses dove into the water themselves and pulled badly burned passengers to safety. Still, the heat from the flames made it impossible to get close enough as the Slocum became engulfed from stem to stem.

Firefighter Edward McCarroll dove into the water from his boat, the Wade, and pulled an 11 year-old girl to safety, passing her to a man with a boat hook. He went back for another when one woman grabbed him by the throat, pulling him under water momentarily, and shouted,  ?You must save my boy.? McCarroll dragged the child to the Wade, and they were both hoisted aboard. Crews from tugs following the Slocum were credited with pulling in the living and the dead ?by the dozen.?

Within an hour, 150 bodies were stretched out on blankets covering the lawn and sands of North Brother Island. Most of them were women. One was still clutching her lifeless baby, who was ?tenderly taken out of her arms and laid on the grass beside her.? Rescued orphans of 3, 4 and 5 years old milled about the beach, dazed. Hours would pass before they could leave the island, many taken to Bellevue Hospital to treat wounds and await the arrival of grief-stricken relatives.

Van Shaick was believed to be the last person off the Slocum when he jumped into the water and swam for shore, blinded and crippled. He would face criminal charges for his ship?s unpreparedness and be sentenced to 10 years in prison; he served four when he was pardoned by President William Howard Taft on Christmas Day, 1912.

The death toll of 1,021, most of them women and children, made the burning of the Slocum New York City?s worst disaster until the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The fire was believed to have been touched off by a carelessly tossed match or cigarette that ignited a barrel of packing hay below deck. There were also remarkable tales of survival. A 10-month-old boy floated to shore, uninjured but orphaned, and lay unclaimed at a hospital until his grandmother identified him days later. Eleven-year-old Willie Keppler had joined the excursion without his parents? permission but made it through the flailing of non-swimmers who dragged fellow passengers down with them; he was too scared of punishment to return home until he saw his name among the dead in the next day?s newspaper. ?I thought I?d come home and git the licking instead of breaking me mudder?s heart,? Keppler was quoted as saying. ?So I?m home, and me mudder only kissed me and me fadder gave me half a dollar for being a good swimmer.?

The men of Little Germany were suddenly without families. Funerals were held for more than a week, and the desolate schoolyards of Kleindeutschland were painful reminders of their loss. Many widowers and broken families moved uptown to Yorkville to be closer to the scene of the disaster, establishing a new Germantown on Manhattan?s Upper East Side. Some returned to Germany. Before long, Kleindeutschland disappeared under New York?s next wave of Polish and Russian immigrants.

    - https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-spectacle-of-horror-the-burning-of-the-general-slocum-104712974/

    - http://www.boweryboyshistory.com/2017/06/remembering-general-slocum-disaster-june-15-1904.html



Aug 8, 2009
Harlem fires:

    3rd alarm in a vacant building in Harlem at 145th Street 8th Avenue on 5-25-89


    2nd alarm, 118th Street & Lexington Avenue 1988:


    513 W 149th Street 1989: