#TBT From The NFPA Archives: Dreamland Fire - May 27, 1911

Blog Post created by jrodowicz Employee on May 25, 2017

A fire broke out during Memorial Day weekend just after midnight on May 27, 1911 inside a Coney Island amusement called "Hell Gate". The "Hell Gate" amusement park ride consisted of a series of channels that allowed park visitors to float through on boats. The channels had been leaking water and were being repaired with felt and pitch. The pitch was heated outside the building and work was done at night while the park was closed. At about 1:30 A.M. inside the "Hell Gate", the heat from the tar burst a cluster of electric lights that had temporarily been mounted on a wooden board. The workmen were able to escape from the building and attempted to fight the fire with hose streams. Eventually an alarm was sent in after losing valuable time. Upon their arrival, the firefighters were unable to gain control of the fire. The buildings were all of light-frame wooden construction, except for the Dreamland Power House. 


Dreamland Fire, Coney Island - May 27, 1911

Men fight the fire at the Coney Island Dreamland Amusement Park on May 27, 1911.


From the NFPA Quarterly v. 5, no. 1, 1911:


"Conclusions: The spread of this fire was due in part to delay in turning in an alarm and the inflammable nature of the buildings. The large area without fire walls or customary streets of proper width made it an exceedingly hard fire to fight. The separate fire main system was called on beyond its capacity and its use was not restricted to the fire department. But the minimum pressure would have been somewhat higher if the three pumps had remained constantly in service.


Recommendations: The capacity of the pumping station for the separate fire main system at Coney Island should be increased at least 100 percent... Pumps should be run long enough during daily test to show if the bearings are overheating."



For more information regarding this fire and other moments in fire history, 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.