98th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire
People from across the city gathered to mark the 98th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in which 146 workers lost their lives.
On March 25, 1911, firefighters responded to what would become one of the most notorious, deadly fires in New York City history, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire.
Members of the Fire Department joined city officials, union leaders and garment industry employees to honor the 98th anniversary of the tragic blaze on March 27 in Manhattan.
During the ceremony, Ladder 20 symbolically raised its ladder to the 6th floor of the building, which still sits on the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, and a bell was tolled to commemorate each of the 146 workers who died that day.
Local students read aloud the names of those lost in the tragedy and laid carnations in their honor.
“In 1911, little attention was paid to the safety regulations that so many of us take for granted today,” said First Deputy Commissioner Frank Cruthers. “The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire changed America. Two years later, in 1913, New York City adopted its first fire code.”
Members of the Fire Safety Education team also were at the ceremony, informing observers and passersby about how to keep their homes and workplaces fire safe.
A bell was rung 146 times to honor each life lost in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Company’s factory in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, which is believed to have started by a lit match or cigarette in a waste bin.
The fire quickly spread across paper sewing patterns and shirts hanging above the sewing tables.
More than 700 people were at work in the building at the time of the fire, 600 of whom were young, immigrant women between the ages of 16 and 23. The workers scrambled to find available exits, as the fire escapes were unsafe and many other exits were locked or blocked.
Many factory workers were killed when forced to jump from windows to escape the heat and flames, and others were trapped by heavy volume of fire.
Although firefighters were able to extinguish the fire soon after arriving on the scene, 146 lives were lost.
As a result of the blaze, and tremendous loss of life, laws were passed nationwide to make residences and workplaces safer. The Fire Department also began teaching fire safety and prevention, staging fire drills in factories across New York.
Additionally, the fire spurred the efforts of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union to organize workers and pushed politicians to pass legislation improving sweatshop conditions in the garment industry.