New York, NY Apartment Fire Started by Christmas Tree Wiring, Dec 1935

Father, 2 Sons Die in First Av. Fire Laid to Christmas Tree Wiring

Relief Worker Who Had Just Tucked Boys, 4 and 6, in Bed
Carries Them From Apartment, Untouched by Flames, to
Trap Across Hall — Blaze Routs Five Families

Alarmed at the smell of smoke
while tucking two children into
bed in a tenement flat on First
Avenue after a Christmas celebration
last night, a father carried
them across a narrow hallway to a
vacant flat, where they were
trapped by the flames and burned
to death.
The bodies of the father and the
two children, 4 and 6 years old,
were found by firemen, huddled
against the wall of the charred vacant
flat. The bedroom from which
the children had been carried and
the other rooms of their apartment
were untouched by the flames.
When firemen arrived a gray cat
was sitting complacently on the
seat of a chair in the kitchen.
The fire started at about 9:30
o'clock when an electrically lighted
Christmas tree burst suddenly into
flames in a flat on the third floor
of a six-st6ry stone-faced tenement
house at 359 East 112th Street, at
the corner of First Avenue. Five
families living in the tenement were
driven to the bitter cold of the
streets, but the flames were confined
to two apartments.
Shortly before the fire occurred
the father, Philip Leo, 39-years old,
had returned with three of his children
from a Yuletide party at the
home of his wife's brother-in-law
Thomas Benedetto, who lives near
by at 327 East 113th Street. Mrs.
Leo had remained at the party
with two other children, Rose, 13,
and Michael, 2, who had been put
to bed there.
The father had returned home to
put two other children to bed and
then planned to return to the celebration
with his daughter, Fanny,
9. As he was undressing John, 6,
and Vito, 4, Fanny screamed that
she smelled smoke.
The girl ran to the front window
and noticed flames shooting from
the windows on the floor below. After
screaming a warning, she ran
to the hallway and downstairs to inform
her mother and uncle of the
fire. She saw her father follow
her to the door with the two children
in his arms.
Billowing smoke coming up from
the stairway apparently made him
feel that he would be safer with the
children in an empty apartment
across the hallway. Cut off by
smoke inside trie building, he found
his flight by a fire escape outside
cut off by sheets of flame extending
throughout the hallway.

Dec. 25, 1935 edition of The New York Times