Sunday, July 17, 2011

Captain Charles Bass, Engine 79, or is it Engine 4?

In Fire Department of New York, History, Line of Duty Deaths, 1906-1915, compiled by Donald Van Holt, is the listing:

January 9, 1912 November 16, 1912
Captain Charles Bass, commander of Engine Company No. 4 at the time of the Equitable Life Assurance Society Building fire last January, died in a Hartford, Conn. sanitarium last Saturday as a results of injuries he received while fighting the fire. Captain Bass lived in West 160th Street. A widow, a son and a daughter survive. Fireman James G. Brown of Hook and Ladder 1 was designated as the wearer of the Bonner medal for his valiant rescue from Equitable Building of Captain Charles F. Bass, whom he found unconscious with a fractured skull on the third floor of the building. Brown bore the Captain through fire and smoke to a window where the men of Hook & Ladder 1 passed him down to the street. Captain Bass was listed on a list of injured persons from the fire.
Source: New York Times Jan. 10, 1912, Page 3 Column 7 & 8, Nov. 19, 1912, Page 5 Column 6, Feb. 9, 1913, Section 3, Page 9 Column 1, LODD 171
In the New York Times on November 19, 1912, subordinate to a news item, "CALLER BEATS AND ROBS HER - Youth Asks Mrs. Loeser to Examine a Book and Then Attacks Her," is a 55-word mention of Charles Bass's death:
Fire Captain Bass Dies of Injuries.Captain Charles Bass, commander of Engine Company No. 4 at the time of the Equitable Life Arrsurance Building fire last January, died in a Hartford Conn. sanitarium last Saturday as a result of injuries he recieved while fighting the fire. Captain Bass live in West 160th Street. A widow, a son and a dughter survive.
The following day, November 20, 1912, the Times published funeral plans for Bass in a column, POLICE AND FIRE NEWS
Fire Department SPECIAL ORDERS 190Death of Capt. Charles S. Bass, Engine 79, at 11:45 P.M. Nov. 16. Funeral from his late home, 509 West 160th Street, at 9:45 A.M., Nov. 20. Interment at Washington, N.J. Funeral honors ordered: Battalion of three companies of ten men each, commanded, respectively, by Lieut. Peter F. Gillen, Engine 32; Lieut. John J. Pitzer, Engine 70; Lieut. William H. Grady Engine80. Captains to act as pallbearers: Thomas King, No. 2, Engine 80; Robert J. Teare, Engine 43; Cornelius J. Duggan, Engine 67; William J. Kennedy, H. & L. 19.
Chiefs of the 2d, 3d, 4th. 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 13th battalions will each detai; three men as funeral escorts, who, with the above detail, will report at 9:15 A.M. in full uniform, at the quarters of H. & L. 34, 515 West 161st Street, and, after services at the home, will accompany the hearse a reasonable distance.
Member of Engine 70 will follow the hearse as mourners.
The chiefs of the 18th Battalion will detail an officer and engineer of steamer and two men, and the 12th 13th and 16th Battalions two men each, to report at the quarters of Engine 79, at 8:30 A.M. for duty during the absence of that company.
I have located three references so far to Capt. Bass in the contemporary news coverage of the Equitable Building fire--with two of them only placing him on the list of the injured:

January 10, 1912, New York Times, "Big Blaze Started in Rubbish Heap,"
BASS, Capt. CHARLES F., Truck Company 4; burns of hands and face. Taken to Hudson Street Hospital.
January 9, 1912, The Evening Post: New York, "The Victims of the Equitable Fire Equitable,"
INJURED. BASS, Charles, captain of Engine Company 4, living at No. 509 West 160th street; burned went home.
January 10, 1913, New-York Daily Tribune, "Biggest Fire in Years Destroys Equitable's Home,"
Charles S. Bass, captain of Engine Company 4, was injured a little later and was carried from the building. He was attended in the street and then removed to the Hudson Street Hospital. When Captain Bass was pulled out of the burning building the rumor started that Chief Walsh had been found, but later this was denied, and the search for the chief was kept up.
From the March 21, 1913, New York Times,
"Alarm From Mayor Call Out Firemen - Many Get Medals for Heroism, and Same Signal Opens Nine New Firehouses"
The Bonner Medal and a department medal were awarded to James G. Brown, Hook and Ladder Company 1. Brown with Battalion Chief Walsh, who lost his life, and Capt. Bass were on the fourth floor of the Equitable Building when the interior walls collapsed. Brown was hurled through a door into another wing of the building. Hearing cries for help, he crawled through the debris and found Capt. Bass pinioned by timbers. He rescued him, and then returned for Walsh, but could not find him. Brown rescued four persons from a building at 25 Park Row on Oct. 6.
It is inexplicable in the extreme for Captain Bass, who in the intervening months had died a line-of-duty death resulting from injuries he received at the Equitable Building fire, to have his death ignored at the March 26, 1913 awards ceremony, especially as his rescuer was receiving commendation for his act.

There are many contemporaneous newspaper references to the loss of Chief Walsh in the fire. They are all in agreement that he had led a group of 14 firefighters into the fire, and that the 14 men left the fire, with him behind, as summarized in the FDNY history:

January 9, 1912
Battalion Chief William J. Walsh was killed when the floors of the Equitable Building collapsed. He led a group of fourteen firemen up a ladder to the fourth floor to search for victims that were trapped. Several men had already jumped from the upper floors. Once the fourth floor was search the men started for the third floor. The fire was licking the fourth floor, as there was also a rumbling sound as of crashing floors overhead. Chief Walsh’s eye caught something on the floor, to make him loitered a second while his men were on the way down. He told his men “Go ahead Boys, I can take care of myself”. There was a crash, followed by many other crashes and seething and whipping flames, which made the fourth floor a furnace within a few minutes. Walsh was last seen half way down the on stairs between the fourth and third floors. Whether he tripped and fell or whether a part of the upper floor overhead fell on him will perhaps never be known. The other fourteen men escaped from the from a third floor window. He was married and had a daughter. The Equitable Building fire an $18 million dollar loss and six killed. Firemen with hacksaws, cut for two hours trying to free workers behind iron bars. Because of this, a heavy rescue company would be organized with special tools in 1915. In addition, it was first time Brooklyn Companies responded into Manhattan to help put a fire out.
Source: New York Times Jan. 10, 1912, LODD 16
Clearly, Captain Charles Bass was not part of the planned media event undertaken as a component of the false-flag arson at the Equitable Building on January 9, 1912, as evidenced by the disparity in accounts that reached the press. James G. Brown most likely murdered Bass using the favored method in the era---a blow to the back of the head.

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