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The 10 Worst Fires in NYC History

On January 9th, one of the worst fires in NYC history raged through an apartment building in The Bronx. Unfortunately, 17 citizens perished in the unspeakable incident. Multiple electric space heaters were the cause of the tragic accident. One of the heaters sparked, causing a massive fire that spread throughout the building. All 17 died of smoke inhalation. 

This recent, horrible event is enough to bring back memories of several fires throughout NYC’s history.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory-1911

On March 25th, 1911, 146 workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory perished in one of the most immense tragedies in New York City history. 

The fire began in a scrap bin located inside the factory. The Asch Building was engulfed in flames, leaving many people trapped. It was reported that many doors and stairwells were locked to keep workers from leaving. The employees died from smoke inhalation and jumping out of the upper floor windows. 

Brooklyn Theatre-1876

Killing over 300 people, the Brooklyn Theatre fire of 1876 is one of the worst fires in New York City history. Hundreds more sustained various injuries. 

Flames quickly spread throughout the venue while The Two Orphans’ play was in progress. All 900 seats were occupied at the time of the fire. There were no buckets of water or hoses readily available, and the fire was not noticed immediately. Many people were trampled to death as panic set in. A large number of victims were burned beyond recognition. The entire building was nearly destroyed. 

Happy Land-1990

In 1990, The Happy Land Social Club was the victim of arsonist Julio Gonzalez. Gonzalez used gasoline to ignite the club after being made to leave by bouncers. Julio had gotten into a fight with an ex-girlfriend while in the club. Due to Julio Gonzalez’s heinous acts, 87 people perished in the blaze. 

Knickerbocker Ice Company-1946

The vacant Knickerbocker Ice Company building was demolished in a significant structural fire. Even worse, thirty-seven people died in a building next door due to the fire at the ice company building. The walls collapsed onto the nearby building, killing many in their sleep. An additional 40 were injured in the tragedy. 

Windsor Hotel-1899

This seven-story hotel was utterly destroyed in 1899. As smoke billowed from the windows and doors, St. Patrick’s Day parade onlookers gasped in horror. Multiple hotel guests were seen jumping from the windows. Within a half-hour of the beginning of the fire, the entire building was in flames. 

Some guests managed to escape, while others were trapped on the upper floors. The fire was said to have started when someone threw their lit match out the window. Instead of falling to the ground, the wind blew the match back into the hotel. The death toll reached 86 that day. Some bodies were never identified and were buried anonymously.

Monarch Underwear Company-1958

A total of 24 NYC citizens died during this fire in 1958. Fifteen more were injured. The fire began in an oven that was used in the textile factory. Many were wounded while trying to jump from the building. 

Puerto Rican Social Club-1976

The Puerto Rican Social Club was the scene of a horrible, intentional fire in 1976. A man and a teenager poured gasoline throughout the club, igniting the terrible fire that killed 25. Dozens of other club-goers were injured. 

The social club only contained one stairwell. This stairwell was caught on fire, and the only way to escape was through the second-story windows. 

Manhattan State Hospital-1923

The Manhattan State Hospital housed over 1,800 mentally ill patients, and in 1923, 25 people burned to death in a deadly fire at the facility. 

The fire was attributed to nearby explosions by the War Department, who blasted out rocks in the nearby channel.

Lower Manhattan-1845

This disaster is known as The Great New York City Fire of 1845. Three hundred forty-five buildings were destroyed in the fire, and 30 citizens perished.

The fire started in a candle factory and quickly spread to nearby buildings. There were several explosions, and dozens were injured.

Brooklyn Apartment Fire-2022

This recent tragedy weighs heavy on the minds of many. Doors that were supposed to close automatically within the building did not work correctly that day. The fire from the apartment quickly spread throughout the building due to the open doors. Eight of the 17 victims were children. Relatives of the victims and other tenants have filed a class-action lawsuit against the building owners. 

These terrible fires have touched the lives of many throughout NYC and beyond. The memories of those lost will never be forgotten.

Kristi Hill is a freelance writer who loves to travel, cook and watch college football. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually listening to classic rock and spending time with her dog, Chico.