Everyone knows about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the 1911 disaster that ushered in fire code reforms and workers compensation laws. But just a year later, another deadly blaze struck Manhattan: the Equitable Life Assurance (no, that’s not a typo) Building fire.
At 5 a.m. on January 10, 1912, a small basement blaze in the building at Broadway and Pine Street quickly traveled through elevator shafts and exploded into an all-consuming inferno. Every fire company south of 59th Street arrived to help. Making it especially difficult was the 20-degree temperature and 60 mile an hour winds.
As The New York Times put it that morning: “Ice seemed to form in the very air. It clogged the apparatus, rooting the pieces to the frozen streets. It settled in cloaks over the men themselves, so that they had to be chopped and thawed out from time to time that they might go on with work.”
Six men, including two firefighters, died before the fire was over. Half a billion bucks were safe in the building’s massive vaults. A new, 40-story Equitable building went up on the site and still stands today.