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“ DRENCHED GROUPS OF MEN, SHINING IN BLACK RUI BER COATS AND HELMETS"

Us

COPRIGHT, 1907, BY DE WITT C. WHEELER

Three and Five, be

tine, they seemed to fore and behind

feel no stirring of the Sheridan. As we

blood in their wonwaited a short sec

derful feats. But for ond for water, we

were the keen watched, aye, felt,

sensations. Always the growing power

the action of men and height of the

and horses seemed flames; saw the fire

quicker than our leap like a cat to

sight. And not our the wooden coping

eyes only, but our of the shop window

hands, arms, legs, next door. Then the

were leaden dulland hose became rigid

heavy-moving. We as a post with the

thought it a marvel might of the water;

that we ever caught the frosted gray col

engine or truck, and umn slapped against

at the next alarm, at the stone portico,

2:52, it was a trithere was a prelim

umph of observation inary swish at the

that one of us dared blaze without, and

affirm that he saw Sheridan's hoarse

the suspended harprofanity hurled us

ness drop upon the into the fire. As we

horses when the drivdrove through the

er pulled his reins. door, to our right lay

Again the engineer

THE CHIEF twisted masses of

touched his flaming red-hot iron glowing dully in the smoke. oiled torch to the excelsior, the flames We could see the man before us a foot roared from the smoke-stack as we away on the other side of the hose, but boomed over the gutter plank within we could see nothing else in the blinding eleven seconds, and again the earth 'smart and the darkness, and we never shook beneath our five tons of vibrant knew how the man at the nozzle found metal as we whirled along Ludlow Street. the living heart of the fire. Water Sheridan leaned to the driver, croaking slopped and spattered everywhere. The his cautions. The rhythmical, plunging heat surged at us scorching. The smoke flight of the wheels began to get into was intolerable, and we bent down for air. the head, and the novice knew at last We choked and spluttered and wept. At why even the mascot dog of a company the last minute of our strength came the "rolls" to a fire. It was a curtain prayed-for order to back out. We were blaze, out before our coming. Yet we dripping, our faces grimed, streaming. dashed up the eight half-flights of stairs, The smoke soon cleared. The water was erupted into the singed apartment, and shut off. Axes and picks tore out still were met with sad Oriental patience and steaming woodwork. There was a hasty, disregard by a half-dozen Russian Jews careful search for further fire. With the squatting in the disorder. quick order “ Take up," the hose was With a rush we were back to listen, rapidly thrown back, folded into the hour after hour, to the gongs clamoring truck, and back to quarters we rolled, for engines in distant streets of the clanging, to answer the next alarm, ever-burning city. And with tempered which might already have sounded. impatience we idled. We made a strange

We arrived at 12:52. The stopped dinner of grilled liver, bitter pickles, and clock marked 12:26. It was unimagin- the unleavened matsoths; and it was not ably quick work—the hard work, dulled till 8:36 that we were again summoned, into habit, of a fast trade. So the men and the engineer rejoiced in the honor thought it, and, drilled in the swift rou- of a prophet. The horses vaulted over

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the sill with us into the darkness. We we were whooping on our way to see the made a roaring course of a mile, tumbled smoldering remains of a sofa. off, hurried with lanterns and pikes up Six fires within eleven hours stood the dark hallways swarming with silent, slow tally in glaring chalk on the blackboard. people. There had been a minute's flare The horses were worn to dropping; the from an overturned lamp. At 9:26 we men, if they had not been firemen, would were off again to a minor blaze in Grand have sworn they were dead. At midStreet, where a woman had been hide- night we crawled to the soft beds. Yet ously burned. Within another half-hour one of us slept not. His cot was nearwe were rushing towards the river—a est the first of the brass poles, but he swift fight with a lumber-yard fire was so dulled with exhaustion that he perilous for its swaying piles and treach- was the last of the men on a new alarm erous footing At 11:27 One-Eight- at 1:30 to take the silent, sliding drop Nine stormed out, and before Headquar- to the rubber-cushioned mat below, and ters could repeat the signal on the larger the engine was shrieking its whistle in a gong, with a glazed and icicled engine wild soprano over the curb when, hatless

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curse.

and coatless, he scrambled to the slippery white towers of steel spouted gigantically: footboard. Carelessly he watched a and the water streamed upon the 'glowterrific race with another engine, and, ing walls. There were streams parallel, unmoved, saw his dashing Seventeen shooting out straight from another win first honors of arrival at the fire. beetling cliff of brick. There were Half-dazed, with unblinking eyes, he streams playing at a dozen angles, peered at the cheerful burning of a store streaked across the smoke. They spat and basement lace factory. Plate glass and hissed on the walls. They curved was rattling on the sidewalk ; there was and sprayed like wonderful plumes, and the burst and crash of a rammed door. threw clouds of shining mist into the Mechanically, he knew not how, he flames. They were silver, they were became a part of the rush into the stifling dark gray; they glittered with gold. cloud of smoke, Sheridan, with his set Engines with piercing whistles call for face, again barking his orders with a coal, and the battle is loud in the streets.

There was blind staggering, A fifth alarm has sounded, and every struggling, swaying, man loyally touching hydrant within the radius of a half-mile man. Life grew weak and the fire strong. is in use. The great La France engines He seemed in the presence of the Arch are vehemently humming; the small Fear of “ Prospice.” Hot, there was the Notts are shaking themselves frantic to fog in the throat and the mist in the 'raise the water an extra foot. But not a face. A kind of sweetness fell upon gallon is thrown above the eighth floor. him, and he knew no more until, lying The oldest of the throbbing hose is on the sidewalk, there came the after weakened by the enormous pressure and pain, the racking head, the aching of bursts, until the streets are filled with throat and limbs.

giant fans of water. The towers begin Yet all this was skirmish fighting and to dribble ineffectively, and stream after nothing more. But within a week we stream feebly falls to earth. Drenched saw in tremendous battle the slow defeat groups of men, shining in black rubber . of the Department and the utter destruc- coats and helmets, are heavily toiling at tion of a thirteen-story “fireproof” the pipes ; yet not an inch is gained. building. A sullen fire on the fifth floor Hook and ladder trucks and water towers had burned hotly for three hours in the shift positions. An abandoned engine early night. Alarm after alarm was under the blazing cornice of the pile is turnedin; twenty engines were pumping, , boldly dragged away in retreat by six and still the fire gained. Then of a of the men. The white-coated and redsudden the windows of the sixth floor helmeted salvage corps hurry bý. A shone red. They quickly crocked from rumor goes that four men are caught on brown to black, and were not seen again the only corner of the roof that is not yet till vivid cracks of light seamed the glass, ablaze. Ten minutes more and the which bulged for a second, and then, reporters crowd questioning around the shattered by the heat, fell with a jingling rescuer, Hery, of Company Three, crash on the pavement below. Furi- who shot the life-line to the roof from ously the flames curled round the case- the dome of the "Florence." Suddenly, ments, and through the denser smoke appalling in terror, there is a mighty only a newer and a higher line of volley- quaking roar. Heavy quintuple presses ing flames told of the doom of another and a group of safes have plunged from floor. Another excited hour and the vic- roof to sub-cellar, and the certain questorious fire, in sheets, torn and lambent- tion is asked, “How many were killed?” ribboned, had reached the wide eaves. Cylinders of benzine explode like salvos

It was danger so magnificently staged of artillery. There is the dull boom of that it was the rarest of spectacles, gor- a back-draught, and the deafening fall geous in flaring reds. Dyed in the lurid of brick. light, the smoke floated in cumulus The men begin to fall back; the very clouds, or drifted raggedly. Shot with

Shot with last of them leave the building. But an golden falling stars, it trailed over the instant before the flames, descending, barred silver of the searchlight. Three seize the lower floors. there is a sudden

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