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How the Horrific Tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Led to Workplace Safety Laws

March 25, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

The tragedy of the 1911 blaze shocked the nation and spurred dozens of new regulations to protect factory workers.

Young women became trapped by tables, bulky equipment and doors that locked or opened the wrong way as flames enveloped the eighth, ninth and 10th floors of the Asche Building in New York City’s Greenwich Village on March 25, 1911. As people struggled to escape, several fell into the flames, their bodies piling by blocked exits. Others leapt—in twos and threes—out the burning building’s high windows.

The March 25, 1911 . “They moved production out of NYC in 1909 to avoid the strike, hired thugs to beat writers and most likely bribed the police to arrest strikers.”

Triangle Factory’s Fire Safety: Empty Water Buckets

On the afternoon of March 25, a Saturday, 500 people were working in Triangle’s factory, which occupied three floors in a building that had been built just 10 years before. Court testimony later placed the blame for the blaze on a fire that started in a fabric scrap bin on the eighth floor, which probably was ignited by a discarded cigarette, shortly before the factory’s 4 pm closing time.

Triangle had water buckets in place for extinguishing fires, a common practice in garment factories at the time. But as one worker, Mary Domsky-Abrams, later recalled in an early 1960s interview with author Leon Stein, the buckets were empty. “On that particular morning, the day of the tragedy, I remarked to my colleagues that the buckets were empty, and that if anything were to happen, they would be of no use,” she said.

Another worker, Cecilia Walker Friedman, who worked on the ninth floor, said that she was ready to leave work when she looked to the window and saw flames. Everyone around her started to scream and holler, but many were hindered in getting away. “The girls at the machines began to climb up on the machine tables, maybe because it was that they were frightened or maybe they thought they could run to the elevator doors on top of the machines,” Friedman said. “The aisles were narrow and blocked by the chairs and baskets. They began to fall in the fire.

The gutted remains of the tenth floor, with only the floors and walls intact.

Firefighters eventually found a six-foot-high pile of bodies jammed up against a door to the back stairway, according to …read more

Source: HISTORY

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