While still unsure of the root cause of the fire, marshals reported the it began after a cigarette butt was tossed into a trash bin on the 8th floor of the Asch Building, located at the northern corner of Washington Square East at 23-29 Washington Pl.
Nearly 500 workers, mostly women, were getting ready to leave as the work day was over when the fire started at 4:30 p.m. The blaze spread too quickly for workers to put out the blaze as the factory floor was filled with cotton scraps, tissue paper patterns and wooden worktables.
FDNY was notified of the fire by 4:45 p.m., however the building’s insufficient escape routes left many of the workers trapped.
Dozens gathered at the Triangle Fire Memorial Association’s not-for-profit charity event last Tuesday at Christ the King High School, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave.
The school’s chorus performed a number of hymns, including “Kyrie: A Call to Prayer” and “Prayer of St. Francis” as Gene Burch ushered in the colors and led the pledge of allegiance.
State Senator Serphin R. Maltese and members of the community spoke of the importance of the tragedy in their lives and the impact it has had on public policy.
Maltese led the ceremonies and helped present awards to community members who have given back in remembrance of the disaster.
Recipients included; artist and founder of the Triangle Fire Coalition and Chalk, Ruth Sergal, was recognized for her community engagement; Huntington English teacher Kimberly Schiller received an award for her dedication to teaching her students about the Triangle fire; Evergreen Cemetery president Paul K. Grassi was thanked for his service as vice-chairman of the Cypress Hill-Fulton Street Senior Center; and business owner Thomas Clarke also received an award for his work in the community.
Gabrielle Sfera, a Ridgewood native, led the memorial and service, as well as received an award for her work with a number of community organizations, including her service as a committee woman of the Queens Republican Club and seat at the Triangle Fire Memorial Association.
“It has been my mission to keep the memory alive of 146 workers killed in the fire,” she said. “Many of our current fire and safety laws were made in response to this tragic event.”
Sfera said she has always remembered those lost in the tragedy as her grandparents also worked long hours in knitting factories when they first came to the country.
“I asked myself if those knitting factories were safe because even then some factories do not follow up-to-code labor and safety laws,” she said. “The Triangle Shirtwaist fire drew uncomfortable parallels with conditions facing workers today and remains one of the most vivid symbols of a constant reminder that our government must ensure a safe work environment.”