4. The 1960s-1970s Were Deadly for the FDNY
FDNY Emergency Response. Photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office
Colloquially referred to as the “War Years,” today’s firefighters speak of the 1970s as if Vietnam’s napalm had come to the streets of New York City. According to Amanda (who preferred to have her last name off the record), a historian at the New York Fire Museum, the reason for the name was due to the ’70s being the most prolific era for fires in the city. “They called it the war years just because some companies would go on thousands of calls per year…they’d get a call, go into the house, come back out and get another call,” she said.
The first reason for so many fires was because of the heavy amounts of flammable chemicals used in buildings during that decade. Yes, buildings rose faster due to lighter materials, but because of increasingly-open floor plans (less doorways) and certain types of materials, they caught fire and were incinerated just as quickly. Furthermore, because of the combination of effects from the recession, people would “burn down empty buildings for insurance [money], just abandoned buildings because landlords couldn’t afford to keep tenants there.”