“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a firefighter The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the firefighter has to do believe that his is a noble calling."
-Chief Edward F. Croker FDNY circa 1910
At 3:14pm on Saint Patrick's Day in 1899, the Signal Station at 5th Avenue & 46th Street was received & transmitted by the Manhattan Fire Alarm Office.
Firemen, some still in their dress uniforms from the parade, made heroic rescues.
Within 2 minutes, Engine 65, the 1st due company was stretching in to the 5th Avenue entrance of the Windsor Hotel, which occupied the block front from 46th to 47th Streets. 5th Avenue was filled with the holiday crowd & there does not seem to have been any long delay in pulling hte box, and yet when Engine 65 turned into the Avenue, people were already jumping from the upper floor windows.
The fire, which had started in the basement, spread with lightening like rapidity until the entire building occupied by the hotel was involved as well as buildings on the side streets. By 5pm, the building was a complete loss.
50-90 people lost their lives in this fire & rescues were made. For the skill & daring of the work which they performed, Firemen William C Clark & Edward Ford of Ladder 20, Bartholomew McDermott of Ladder 21 were decorated & the names of 28 members were added to the Roll of Merit.
The official report of Chief Hugh Bonner says in part-
"The 1st alarm for the Windsor Hotel fire was received at 3:14pm & was followed by other alarms in quick succession until the 5th had been sent out. The 1st Engine to arrive at the scene was Engine 65 from W 43rd Street. People were jumping from the windows of the hotel into the street. No chance to save life was neglected by the men. The rescues made by Ford & Clark, from my personal observation & what I have since heard of the circumstances, were among the bravest ever accomplished. McDermott's conduct & that of many other of the men, are classed in my mind with the most heroic ever attempted by men in the face of such difficulty & danger."
While the men of the Department have made many splendid rescues & performed many brave deeds, there has never been anythingn to compare with what they did at the Windsor fire. I doubt if what they accomplished there can ever be equalled.
The operations at the fire were in charge of Chief of Department Hugh Bonner, Deputy Chief Purroy, Battalion Chiefs Binns, Welsh, Byrne & Castles & Acting Battalion Chief Farley. Response was 22 Engines, 6 Ladders & 1 Water Tower.