On Tuesday, November 19, 1895, at approximately 6:00 p.m., the alarm sounded at Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Engine Company No. 2, located at 412 North Main Street [editor's note: this is now a parking lot at the historic Plaza area next to the Pico House, Merced Theater and Masonic Lodge and just north of U.S, 101], where Sam Haskins was assigned as a call-man, meaning he was on-duty as needed.
Responding to the alarm, the station crew immediately took their positions on the horse-drawn carriage and rode south down Main Street. Haskins took a standing position on a running board at the rear, next to a shovel and a box of coal, which was behind a large and heavy steam pumper that was fixed at the center of the carriage.
|Coverage of the tragedy in the Los Angeles Times, 20 November 1895. The following day, the paper issued a correction, stating that Haskins was not burned by the boiler because it was insulated.|
LAFD historians surmise that Haskins' position was that of a “stoker,” a task that required strength and coordination. Hanging on to the carriage with one hand while racing down the rough-hewn streets, a stoker’s responsibility was to maintain the fire in the burn box by using his foot to close and reopen the burn box and using his free hand to add shovels of coal.
According to the Los Angeles Times edition of the next day, the 20th, after the rig came to a quick stop, the wheel had to be removed first. This took about ten minutes and only then could Haskins be freed, with his terrible injuries clearly visible to the growing crowd of onlookers. He was taken back to the station, where, after a few agonizing minutes, he died.
|Reporting on the coroner's inquest from the Times, 22 November 1895. See the end where it was stated that blacks and whites in large numbers went to pay tribute to Haskins.|
One newspaper even recalled the time Haskins saved the life of police officer Valencia [see the first part of this post from last week.] Poignantly, LAFD Chief Walter S. Moore simply said, “The deceased was more than five years past connected with the department and was a faithful and industrious fireman.” [note the reference here to Haskins' association with the LAFD going back to at least 1890, though his assignment as a call man was two years after that.]
|The brief account of Haskins' funeral in the Herald, 23 November 1895.|
The Times reported that there were “profuse floral offerings, including a wreath from the Fire Commissioners and a star from the police department, with the services conducted by Rev. John A. B. Wilson, pastor of the First Methodist Church.” With no mention of family members, Haskins was simply described as a “bachelor” or “unmarried.” His grave site, though, was left unmarked.
|Coverage from the Times' edition of 23 November of the funeral ceremony, including a list of pallbearers. Note the reference to pallbearer George Warner as "formerly a slave in company with the deceased in Virginia."|