Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

    October 1, 1910
    Los Angeles Times
    Building Explosion
    First Street and Broadway

OCTOBER 1, 1910

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Down Memory Lane
By Eddie King

    All during the month of September 1910 from about 6:30 P.M. until the wee hours of the next morning, some thirty officers of the L.A. Police Department had been doing our best to catch one of the boldest and most ruthless criminals of that day. Known as the RAPE FIEND OF BOYLE HEIGHTS he was making life miserable for all members of the police department, and striking terror in the hearts of all citizens. Four of the thirty were on special duty, in other words the four of us were baiting the trap, that we so fondly hoped would catch the fiend. When ten of the women of Boyle Heights (all from that district) had been assaulted and raped, on the open streets during the early hours of each evening our Officials of the police department decided drastic measures were necessary. Detective Charley Leanard and and myself had the job of luring the fiend, by disguising (by dressing) in women's clothing and we were accompanied by Sergeant A. H. Ferns and Jerry Hickey as our male escorts.

    This fiend had a habit of accosting a couple (man & woman) on the dark streets and tieing up the man, then raping the woman. Leanard and myself had wigs, veils, and woman's clothing at the home of Sergeant Gus Smith, where we dressed each evening while Ferns and Hickey awaited us, then each couple traveled the streets in opposite directions. After this detail was established, the fiend did not strike here in this city from that day on, but the detail was kept up all during the month of September and until the early morning of October 1st at which time the detail was discontinued, as the rapist had discontinued his fiendish acts and our Officials called the detail off.

    Ferns and I had been of the habit of catching the owl car from Boyle Heights which would bring us to First and Spring Streets at about 1 A.M. And I was especially glad the detail had ended, for it was no fun to travel all night long and into the wee hours of each morning in women's shoes and with women's clothing. So Ferns and I were happy when we alighted from the Boyle Heights car at 1:10 A.M. October 1st, 1910, and started towards Central Police Station on First Street between Broadway & Hill Streets. We had just crossed Spring Street and started west on First Street, when we were accurately lifted by what Ferns and I had first thought to be a terrible earth-quake, and we were, thrown by the blast against each other, then looking towards the west, we saw the first flames shooting from the floors of THE TIMES building. There was not another soul on the streets at that hour of the morning, and from the windows and the front door, came those poor souls crashing to the sidewalk with their clothing afire, and crashing to their death when they struck the sidewalk. Ferns and I because of the terrible heat of that fire pulled our coats up over our heads and got as close as we could so that we dragged several dying employees back farther from that awful heat and got as many as we could away from the fire. By this time the morning watch of Central Station came running down First Street and assisted Ferns and myself carry several of the poor victims up First Street to the Receiving Hospital.

    Twenty of the employees of THE TIMES perished in that terrible explosion and fire and because of the small number of police officers of the Department at that early day of 1910, all of us stayed on the job for several days, without sleep or rest. As was later found several suitcases of dynamite (exact number of sticks in each suitcase) was later brought out at the trial of those that were responsible for that terrible tragedy.

    Ferns and myself, because of others who thought they knew it, called it a gas explosion, but when the facts were at last known, we helped for days with the prosecution of those that had caused this what became one of the greatest tragedies of the century.

    Ferns and myself having been the very first on the scene on that terrible morning and witnessed those poor souls jumping from those windows, saw some trying to climb out those windows, only to fall back into the fire, is a sight I shall carry with me until my dying day. Often at night I have been awakened time and again by that terrible sight.

    As an after thought the rape fiend of Boyle Heights was caught by an officer dressed as I had been in woman's clothing, during an attempted rape in the city of Omaha, several months after his fiendish acts here in L.A., but was killed by the arresting officer while trying to escape by running.


    P.S. Although THE TIMES building was completely destroyed with the loss of twenty lives in that tragedy, and while the building was still a raging inferno of flames and hottest embers, THE TIMES appeared on time, as usual to its subscribers. What appeared to be a miracle to all was explained. THE TIMES had another building and other presses on College Street between Main and Alameda Streets, that put out the issue of October 1st, 1910 as usual, the very day that THE TIMES was destroyed by dynamite and fire.

    A suitcase of dynamite was placed under the bedroom window of General Ottis's home it failed to explode at the same time that the suitcases of dynamite was placed in ink alley, back of THE TIMES building at First & Broadway. The Eagle that stood on the building stood all through the blast and fire, and was there until the walls were torn down for the new building, moving later to First and Spring Streets, their present location.


This article appeared in the September 1960 issue of THE FIREMAN'S GRAPEVINE.


Down Memory Lane
By Eddie King

    Just recently, I am not sure what month it was I sent my article of one of the greatest tragedies in American History--
The fire and explosion and destruction of the Los Angeles TIMES.  And since writing this story I have been besieged with many request for more details of this terrible tragedy in which twenty or more lost their lives.  This is not much more to report on this case, something  I had witnessed first hand, as Lieut. Ferns (Now Deceased) were walking towards the old Central Police Station on First Street between Broadway and Hill Streets.  As I first stated in my article both Ferns and myself thought it a great earth-quake, we were so close, and we lifted from our feet, that turned out to be suitcases filled with dynamite.

    As I stated before if I lived to be a thousand years of age, I could not forget this great tragedy.  The suitcases, as it developed containing the dynamite were placed in Ink-Alley which was in the rear of the old TIMES Building at First and Broadway.  And because of the floors being soaked with benzene, which every Fireman knows is one of the most inflammable liquids known.   As close as we were to this Times building and as quickly as Ferns and I could run, the heat was terrific, and it seemed the flames quickly covered each floor, burning those poor humans employed there on the night shift.  Remember this happened on October 10, 1910, that is fifty years ago, but my recollection is as clear of events, as if it were but yesterday.  In fancy I can hear the screams of those poor souls, and tired in our feeble way to stay the jumps or falls from that burning building.  Some tried to talk to Ferns and I before others came running, but their sufferings were so intense that they could not talk, only scream, and moan in their misery.  Some that jumped from the top floor were killed outright on the cement sidewalk, others died on the way to the Receiving Hospital which was just around the corner on Hill Street at First Street.

    The smell of burning human flesh was most nauseating, and I remember I became violent sick in carrying burned humans dying or dead to the hospital.  The heat as I stated before was so intense that Ferns and I pulled our coats up over our heads in trying to carry those poor souls away from the heat and the flames.  Never did I ever see a fire that was hotter, and I have seen many in my time.  The old Eagle that stood as a symbol of our beloved Nation and which stood atop of those stones walls of the Times building stood there all through that dreadful fire.  And I heard some thoughtless persons who stood watching that fire say that they wished the Eagle would fall from its resting place atop of that building.  As you know the remains of those terribly burned persons, were buried side by side in Hollywood Cemetery.

    Fifty years have gone by since that terrible night, or I should say early morning for it was just 1:10 A.M. October 1, 1910, that this city witnessed one of its greatest tragedies.  As the embers of that fire cooled we who stayed on the job until the last, found one body, pressed flat on its stomach in the farthest corner of that cement basement.  This body like many others was burned black only the underneath side of the body was white where the fire cold not get to it.  Ghastly you say, and how right you are.

    GOD in his merciful administration of human affairs, may forgive those responsible for that tragedy, but here is one who cannot forgive or forget.


This article appeared in the November 1960 issue of THE FIREMAN'S GRAPEVINE.


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