January 11, 1912, New-York Daily Tribune,
Page 3, Column 1.
Worked in water up to his knees? Give me a break.
"SAY APPARATUS WAS LATE,"
Fully 18 Minutes Elapsed Before Engines Reached Fire.
EMPLOYES TALK AT INQUIRY
Fought Flames and Thought They Had Blaze Under Control, but Alarm Was Turned In.
Nine employes of the Equitable Life Assurance Society and the Café Savarin and three policemen were witnesses yesterday afternoon before Acting Fire Marshal Prial, who is conducting an investigation into the cause of the fire. One of the principal witnesses was Phillip O'Brien, timekeeper in the Cafe Savarin, in whose room the fire originated.
He said that he arrived at the building at 5 o'clock, his time to report for work. His room, a small enclosure 4 by 12 feet, is in the basement of the Pine Street side, a few feet from the elevator shaft. When he arrived at the place, O'Brien said, he went directly to his room, reaching there a few minutes after 5 o'clock. He then went to another room to get some books. Before he left his office, O'Brien says, he lit a match, with which he lit the gas. He said he was sure he threw the burned match on the stone floor outside the office door.
O'Brien says he returned to his office a few minutes later and went out again at exactly fifteen minutes after 5 o'clock. At 5:18 o'clock, he said, he was informed by another employee that his room was afire. He went to the room and found a waste basket and a portion of a chair burning.
From testimony it was seen that the fire started between 5:15 o'clock, when O'Brien left his room, and 5:18 o'clock, when he was told about the fire. The official time recorded on the automatic alarm clocks at all of the fire houses and Headquarters was 5:34 o'clock, or at least sixteen minutes after the fire had been discovered.
Sargeant Eugene Casey and Patrolman David J. Foley, who ran to the building when they heard of the fire, and Patrolman John Hummell, who was also present, were witnesses. Casey and the others found, they said, the employees fighting the fire, and when Casey ordered one of the patrolmen to turn in an alarm he was told by some one in the place that it was not necessary, that they could handle the blaze. Casey says the place was so filled with smoke that he could not identify the man who told him this. The sergeant, however, saw that the blaze was serious, and caused an alarm to be turned in.
Arthur E. Davis, who was in charge of the building when the fire was discovered, testified that the fire could not have been caused by defective insulation.
Davis said there was one continuous stairway in the building, leading from the basement to the top floor. He said he showed the firemen how to reach the upper floors and he then thought of the boilers in the basement of the building. Fearing they would explode, he hurried down, worked in water above his knees and drew from under the seven boilers enough fire to lower the pressure and avert an explosion.
William Collins testified he found Davis on an upper floor of the building after he had drawn the fire from under the boilers and that he assisted him to the street. He said it was at least twenty minutes after he was told of the fire in the timekeeper's room before the fire apparatus arrived.