Equitable Building, NY (Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collections)
Six people lost their lives during a fire that occurred at the building of the Equitable Life Assurance Society on January 9, 1912. That week would turn out to be one of the coldest on record for the year. When the fire started, the wind was coming from the west with an average speed of 37 miles per hour. As the efforts to fight the fire continued and the day progressed, wind velocity rose at times to 65-68 mph. Temperatures declined rapidly resulting in freezing conditions below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
From Report on Fire in the Equitable Building: Broadway, Pine, Nassau and Cedar Streets, New York City (New York: New York Board of Fire Underwriters, 1912)
"Although the Fire department is entitled to the credit of having done all that could be expected with facilities available, it is apparent that the fire, at least above the 5th floor, burned unrestrained throughout the entire area of the main building. The high pressure service being too remote to be promptly available, it is difficult to figure how such a fire, if started again under similar circumstances, could be fought with any greater effectiveness by the Fire Department when the conditions of unprotected floor openings, combustible material, excessive and undivided floor areas, high wind, freezing weather, small standpipes in buildings across streets and the relative inefficiency of portable steam engines in comparison with the high pressure service are taken into consideration."
For more information regarding this or other historic fires, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library. The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.