Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Paterson Riverside Station - Photo by Dr. Thomas Dayspring

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


After twenty-two hours of digging in the ruins of yesterday's explosion at Paterson, N.J., work ceased this afternoon, and it is now believed all the bodies have been recovered. There are now seventeen.

- The Washington Post

On June 21, 1901, fireworks exploded in a shop in a four-story tenement at 440 Main St., killing 17 people and trapping others.

Three firefighters were injured.

Rescuers used ladders and life nets to save people ``hanging from the windows ready to drop'' when the engines arrived, according to The New York Times.

The Times described the saving of John McGlone and his wife, who lived on the top floor:

``McGlone climbed out of the front window and hung on with one hand while he held his wife to his breast with the other. The ladders were all busy, and one of the life nets from Truck 1 was called into use. Twenty men held it, and McGlone was told to drop.

``With a superb show of strength he swung so as to carry his wife away from the building and then let go of her. She dropped into the net through the flame. As soon as she could be rolled out Of the net, it was placed for her husband, and he, too, landed safely in it.''

Still, the husband and wife were ``badly burned by their flight through the flames bursting from the windows below,'' according to the newspaper.


The following was published in the Sandusky Daily Star of Ohio:

Paterson, N. J., June 22. - So far as known there were 12 people killed and a number of others were injured in a fire following an explosion among a quantity of fireworks in the store of ABRAHAM M. RITTENBERG. The store was on the ground floor of a 4-story frame tenement building. The cause of the explosion is not known. The property loss is $35,000.

The following were killed:

MRS. CHARLES WILLIAMSON, burned while trying to rescue her husband.
CHARLES WILLIAMSON, helpless cripple, unable to leave bed.
HAROLD RITTENBERG, 10-months-old child of the keeper of the fireworks store.
WILLIE ELSASSER, six weeks old.
MRS. BERT BAMBER, whose husband is in the hospital.
JOHN BAMBER, 6-months-old child.
MRS. ANDREW ELVIN, head only found, trunk missing.
CLARENCE BURNS, six years old, found clasped in his mother's arms.
Total number of bodies recovered, 12.

The missing:

JOSEPH ELVIN, two weeks old, mother's head found.
Two Nephews of MRS. LANNIGAN, whose body has been found.
MRS. MARY ELSASSER, kept baker shop, child's body found.

The Injured Are:

J. JESSUP, bruised about the head and body and burned about the head.
MRS. J. JESSUP, bruised and burned about the body.
I. BAMBURGER, head and face bruised.
NICHOLAS HILLMAN, cut on head.
GEORGE SODER, cut on face.
Fireman EDWARD LINGLAND, injured by falling wall.
MR. and MRS. JOHN McGLONE, burned about face and body.

The building in which the explosion occurred was a frame tenement four stories high, with stores on the ground floor. The middle store was occupied by RITTENBERG. Ten families occupied flats in the building. So great was the force of the explosion that a boy playing in the street half a block away was lifted to his feet and hurled against an iron fence, one of his legs being broken. A trolley car was directly in front of the building when the explosion occurred. The burst of flame blown out into the street scorched the sides of the car and singed the hair of the passengers.

A number of those who were on the upper floors of the building when the explosion took place were either stunned or burned to death or found escape cut off and were suffocated. After the first explosion there was a succession of smaller ones, and then came a second big explosion, which was muffled and deadened, and probably occurred in the cellar.

Every window seemed to be spouting flames within a minute after the first explosion. A woman, her clothing on fire, leaped out of one of the windows and fell to the yard below. Her body was dragged out of reach of the flames, but the flesh was roasted and dropped from the bones. She later proved to be a MRS. WILLIAMS.

MRS. WILLIAMS' husband was a cripple. His wife is supposed to have remained longer than she could with safety in an effort to save him. He was found burned to a crisp on his bed.

Some of the occupants of the rooms dropped from the windows and were bruised. Others hung from the windows until the firemen came, and twenty persons were taken down in this way through the fire and smoke by the firemen, while others dropped into life nets.

RITTENBERG will probably be arrested pending an investigation. In the debris was found the head of a man or woman.