As the FDNY night shift members were arriving to their firehouse on Wednesday July 13, 1977, like most other hot summer nights they knew that it wasn"t a matter of will they catch "A" job, it was; "How Many Jobs". But I"m sure they had no idea of what it would actually be like. As darkness approached, at 9:35 PM the Lights went out. The entire city had lost all electric power. This had happened 12 years earlier in November, 1965. Then the Baby Boom came along 9 months later. But this "Blackout" would be quite different from the November, 1965 one. When the Blackout of 1977 occurred, it was a hot summer night. Everybody was outside. Most stores had already closed except for a few drug stores and package stores. By 10:00 PM the first stores were being broken into and looted. As the night went on, more people joined in and more stores were looted. It was beyond what the NYPD could handle. Then some stores were set on fire. As time went on, more stores were set on fire. Brooklyn and The Bronx were getting hit the hardest. Broadway in Brooklyn, which divides Bed-Sty from Bushwick certainly saw the most fire. In a four block stretch, every single store was burned out. In a stretch of 30 Blocks, at least one store was completely burned out in every block. Also in Brooklyn, Utica Ave and Pitkin Ave streets saw a huge amount of fire activity. In The Bronx, it was Southern Blvd around 163rd St and above, and East Tremont from Webster Ave. to Boston Rd. Of course there were other areas hit too, throughout the city.
By the time it was over on Friday morning July 15th, the FDNY had 3,900 alarms, and fought 1,037 fires. Of the 3900 alarms, 1,677 never got answered. There were 13 Multiple Alarm Fires, and 40 All Hands. Brooklyn had 119 stores burned out, and The Bronx had 78 in about a 36 hour period.
Brooklyn had 303 fires, of which 7 were multiples, and 20 were all hands
Bronx had 307 fires, of which 3 were multiples, and 14 were all hands
Manhatten had 209 fires, of which 1 was a multiple , and 3 were all hands
Queens had 134 fires, of which 2 were multiples, and 3 were all hands
Staten Island had 45 fires
(It should be noted that all of the above statics were taken from a book called "Blackout Looting" published in 1979)
I remember riding down there Friday afternoon. The first place I headed for was Broadway in Brooklyn. Several areas were still blocked off from vehicle traffic. The overhead elevated subway line had been reopened after being shut down due to the fires. I could still see some places with a light smoke condition and an engine and ladder still on the scene. The steel scissor gates were ripped off the store fronts. The streets were full of debris. Charred pieces of wood, empty boxes of melted ice cream, meats, and magazines were flowing down the streets and blocking up the storm drains. Flooding became a problem. I then headed to the Bronx where it was the same story. I remember hearing companies asking for help. If an engine on the scene of a fire, asked just for a truck, the dispatcher would say "well if you really need one, we"ll try to get you one". If a fire went to an all hands you can bet, they had a huge amount of fire. Jobs were getting knocked down using just one engine and one ladder. There was no time to hang around and overhaul. Any overhaul was done with a tower ladder using the stream from the bucket.
I only saw the "After Effects", and heard some of it on the scanner. I"m hoping that a few friends that actually lived there and remember it will join in. I"m sure you got a few stories about the historic 36 hours to tell. That sure would be great !!!
And by the way, that Gus Johnson"s Fire Buff"s Handbook is great. If you can find one, in my opinion, its worth picking up.