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Shortly after 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon fire was discovered in the second or newer entry of Hilton Block in the broom closet on the third floor. It spread with great rapidity over the newly varnished wainscoating with such volumes of smoke that it was impossible to save anything in the rooms on the upper stoies. With but one exception, J. B. Henney, Jr., 1901, of Hartford, Conn., no one was caught in the building. Henney who rooms in number 38 on the top story was reading in his room when he smelt smoke, and on going into the entry was nearly stifled by the dense cloud which was rolling up from the floor below. He attempted to go down the wooden ladder in the air shaft but finding it on fire started down the stairs. Whether he forgot that from the end room in the entry he could reach the fire escape or whether the room was locked is not known. Suffice it to say that Henney reached the fourth floor, found it impossible to go further and rushing to the window of room number 30 climbed out upon the sill.
Meanwhile the hook and ladder from the Brattle square station had arrived and on seeing Henney at the window the crowd made a rush for it and attempted to drag off the extension ladder, breaking the lock in so doing and rendering removal of the ladder impossible. It could only have been raised by six men experienced in its use, however, and there were but two members of the department on the truck, the captain having run back to ring in a second alarm. The lieutenant of the truck company aided by several undergraduates then hurried to get out the life net which was spread below Henney, and only just in time, for even before it was sufficiently manned he was forced to jump. The smoke was so dense that he was invisible to those below and landing in the net near the weaker end almost before its holders knew it, his fall was only partially broken and he struck the sidewalk with considerable force, receiving a bad shaking up and possible internal injuries.
As the horses of the Brattle square engine were being exercised when the alarm was rung in, the fire gained considerable headway before the steamer arrived and the first ho.e was run. As Chief Casey was delayed by an accident to his wagon and did not reach the scene of operations till some time after the two other engines had arrived, there was but little discipline among the firemen and the service inefficient. When work was really begun, however, the fire was quickly controlled and the building was not gutted. The woodwork from the third story up was seriously charred however and great damage done by water.
Mr. Hilton's loss is estimated at from $20,000 to $30,000, $17,000 of which is insured. Leavitt and Peirce's loss by water amounts to some $5000 which is nearly all covered. The effects of the students rooming in the entry are a total loss however.
At a late hour last evening Henney was resting quietly and it is not thought that his injuries will prove serious. He is of course badly bruised and strained but it is hoped not seriously.
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