On this day, ninety-five years ago, the Arverne Conflagration was started by a carelessly thrown cigarette or match -- razing 13.5 acres of the Roackaways summer resort during a period of less than five hours.
Pictured: Ruins of the Israel Orphan Asylum, which was in the path of the flames on June 15, 1922.
All of the children were safely removed.
An investigation by the city fire marshal indicated that on June 15, 1922, men working on the Hotel Nautilus had been smoking and that a small fire started on the roof of the one-story section directly below the area the men were smoking. Hotel employees and others were unsuccessful in their attempts to extinguish the flames and the fire department was called. By the time the first company arrived the large frame building was burning on all three floors. There were two hydrants located opposite the hotel, however they were unable to be used due to the heat. The fire started at 5:15 PM and by 6:00 PM, it had reached such a size that it was impossible for arriving apparatus to pass along the Boulevard at the extreme leeward side of the fire.
From the NFPA Quarterly v.16, no. 1, 1922:
"The fire burnt itself out, as beyond the Rockaway Beach Boulevard and the Long Island Railroad tracks there were only a few buildings, most of which were destroyed. The flying brands even ignited a barge in the Bay more than half a mile away. A total of 141 boarding houses, hotels, private homes and bungalows were destroyed with an estimated loss of approximately $2,000,000.
Few features of prominence were brought out in this conflagration other than the known conflagration hazard of wooden shingle roofs. That it was not of more serious consequence was due to the general character of summer resort places, which extend along the seashore and are of narrow width, which, with the prevailing direction of the wind from the ocean usually limits the fire to a swath across the occupied area instead of lengthwise. A shifting wind to a direction parallel to the ocean front would have involved the entire area and, due to the fact that all this section is surrounded by water, there would have been considerable loss of life. It is evident from this and other fires in frame summer resort sections that the wooden shingle roofs must be eliminated before such districts can be considered as reasonable safe as places for congregation of large crowds. The magnitude of the original fire is an argument against the present practice in seasdhore resorts of constructing extensive hotels of frame, as even without the shingle roofs, a number of buildings directly exposed by the hotel would have become involved."
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