1/28/1986 the Challenger spacecraft exploded 73 seconds into its flight killing all seven crew members after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster failed.
The Challenger disaster occurred over the Atlantic Ocean, in U.S. waters, off the coast of central Florida, at 11:39 a.m.
1/28/1961 nine Chicago firefighters died while battling a warehouse fire at 614 Hubbard Street. “The fire started in the upper floors of the seven-story warehouse, located in a railroad yard in a heavy industry area. The warehouse stored bakery supplies for the Hilker and Bletsch Company and frozen foods for the P and P Blueberry Packing Company. Immediately adjacent to the warehouse was a two-story building containing one-gallon tin containers for packaging and storing food. The warehouse fire burned for some time before it was noticed by nearby railroad workers. By the time the fire department was contacted, receiving the first alarm at 6:23 a.m., flames were already bursting through windows in the warehouse. Within twenty minutes, the alarm was raised to a 5-11, followed by a special alarm. The additional alarms brought in 316 firefighters, 67 pieces of apparatus and equipment, four ambulances, and three rescue squads. Nearby fireboats also responded to the incident to pump water from the Chicago River. The Battalion led several firefighters onto the roof of the adjacent two-story building in an attempt to run a hose into the burning warehouse. Without warning, the adjoining warehouse wall suddenly collapsed onto the smaller building, burying the team in the debris. Firefighters raced to dig their comrades out of the rubble and, as they were pulling injured firefighters out of the wreckage, the roof of the smaller building collapsed, trapping both the initial victims and a number of rescuers. With flames still blazing over their heads and even more firefighters now trapped, rescuers used portable chainsaws to cut through the wreckage and shored up the debris in an attempt to dig a ten-foot shaft to the trapped victims. The weather, with temperatures hovering just over zero degrees, also wreaked havoc on the fire department’s response efforts. Because of the water used in the firefighting operations, the area surrounding the warehouse was quickly covered in water and ice and equipment was frozen in place. The flames were eventually extinguished later in the day, but the ruins continued to smolder for several days. After hours of digging, firefighters were able to recover the remains of all of their fallen comrades. In the end, nine firefighters were killed, and fifteen firefighters were injured.”
1/28/1854 a Buffalo, New York firefighter died “while operating at a factory fire. He climbed a ladder to the third floor with a line to put on the fire. In the darkness and dense smoke, he fell into the basement through an open hatchway in the floor, and was killed.”
1/28/1901 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died of smoke inhalation while operating at a very stubborn single-alarm cellar fire. Many other firefighters were also overcome by smoke.”
1/28/1907 Buffalo, NY the eight-story Columbia building at Seneca and Wells Streets killed three firefighters working on the roof when the structure collapsed trapping them under tons of ice coated debris. “On arrival, a third alarm was struck immediately when firefighters found an eight-story multi-occupancy factory heavily involved in fire. Sub-freezing temperatures hampered firefighting efforts, and at the height of the blaze, a collapsing wall buried a score of men. Rescuers worked for hours in heavy icing conditions and under the threat of secondary collapses to rescue their trapped comrades. Three men died in the collapse and many more sustained serious injuries.”
1/28/1927 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died of gas asphyxiation, and many other firefighters were overcome by illuminating (natural) gas and smoke, while operating at a fire in a five-story tenement at 22 Mangin Street.”
1/28/1932 a Cambridge, MA firefighter “died as a result of injuries sustained while operating at a three-alarm church fire.”
1/28/1933 a Philadelphia, PA firefighter “died from the injuries he sustained after a building collapse at 240 N Front Street.”
1/28/1941 a Queens, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died as a result of injuries he sustained the previous day, when he fell from a roof while operating at an alarm.”
1/28/1947 a Saint Paul, MN firefighter died from asphyxiation at fire in fourplex, 1003 Grand.
1/28/1959 two East Peoria, IL firefighters died at the Green Gables Tavern fire. “At 9:45 p.m. an alarm was sounded at the Green Gables Tavern at 808 Meadow Avenue in East Peoria, Illinois for a fire in the structure. Employees and patrons had noted a burning smell for some time but were unable to locate a source. Initial reports from the scene indicated a small amount of visible fire from the front of the structure with heavy smoke on the second floor. Suddenly an influx of heavy, dark and excessively hot smoke followed by an explosion that pushed them two firefighters back from the door. The two were trapped in the structure by the sudden explosion and subsequently lost their lives to the fire.”
1/28/1981 a Los Angeles, CA firefighter died while operating at the Cugees Restaurant, 5300 Lankershim Boulevard, in the North Hollywood fire. “Firefighters found heavy smoke with some fire showing in the interior of the restaurant. Because a backdraft explosion was a distinct possibility and because the smoke had to be cleared in order to begin a meaningful fire attack, ventilation procedures were begun on the roof. Four members of Truck 60 were cutting a hole near the center of the roof when, without warning, it began to sink beneath their feet. As the roof sank, it fell at a steep angle, slowly and agonizingly pulling the firefighter to his death.”
1/28/1985 a Reading, PA firefighter died while operating at a building fire. “On arrival, firefighters found fire and smoke showing from the first floor of the six-story brick commercial building, housing offices and a YMCA on the bottom three floors and apartments from the fourth floor up. Firefighters started evacuation, search, and rescue operations and began to stretch hose lines. The victim and two other firefighters found an occupant in the second-floor stairwell and started to lead him down to the lobby. Suddenly, a flashover occurred in the first-floor hall and raced up the stairs to where the firefighters and civilian were coming down. The two firefighters managed to escape the stairwell with serious burns, but one firefighter and the civilian were unable to escape and were incinerated in the stairwell. Also killed were two other civilians who were caught in the flashover on the first floor.”
1/28/1990 two Danville, VA firefighters died at a house fire on Guilford Street. “Three firefighters become disoriented and lost while performing fire suppression at a house fire on Guilford Street. All three firefighters were found and removed from the structure and taken to the EMS area outside of the incident where despite life-saving measures two succumbed to their injuries. Both deaths were due to smoke inhalation.”
1/28/1994 two Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighters “died when they became trapped and overcome by smoke by a rapidly moving fire in the basement of a church. Several firefighters re-entered the church after orders to rescue the firefighters, and were able to pull one of them from the basement. Eight other firefighters were injured, including several involved in the rescue efforts.”
1/28/1995 a Stoughton, MA firefighter “died when he was caught in a flashover while searching for victims on the third floor of a rooming house.”
1/28/1984 a suspicious fire that started in the furnished lounge area on the 7th floor of the 14-story Howard Johnson’s Hotel in downtown Orlando, FL. seriously injured three of the approximately 300 guests, with thirty-five to forty guests on the floor of origin, and caused minor injuries to thirty-one other guests and four firefighters around 1:51 a.m. The rectangular shaped 14-story precast, reinforced concrete construction with a built-up roof hotel tower was built with guest rooms opening onto a 170-foot central, east/west 1-hour fire-rated exit access corridor, with enclosed stairways at each end and midway an intersecting 29-foot corridor providing access to a bank of three elevators and a furnished lounge area. The fire alarm system had manual pull stations located near each stair, corridor smoke detection, and single-station smoke detectors in the guest rooms. It is believed an accelerant had been “poured” in elevator lounge and ignited; combined with combustible furnishings there was sufficient heat to buckle the elevator shaft doors allowing smoke to spread to upper floors via the elevator shaft. The fire ignited electrical cable insulation in a vertical raceway 19’ from the point of origin permitting vertical fire spread to the 8th and 9th floors through the raceway.
1/28/1966 a large gas explosion and fire at the Hotel Paramount in Boston, MA on Washington and Boylston Streets in Boston’s Theater District killed eleven and injured more than fifty just after 6:30 p.m. on a cold winter night. The fire quickly spread trapping guests on the upper floors; at least ten people rescued were by ladder.
1/28/1931 Powys, PA a father and six children ranging in ages from 4 to 17 died in a farmhouse fire near Williamsport that is believed to have been started from an overheated flue in the kitchen.
1/28/1924 Kirksville, MO two buildings at the State Teachers College were destroyed by fire that may have started near one of the big chimneys in Baldwin Hall. “Erected in 1873 and has long been regarded as a fire trap,” the fire extended to Library Hall in the afternoon blaze.
1/28/1908 Kansas City, KS the Nelson Morris & Co Packing Plant was destroyed by a fire of unknown origin that started in the canning department on the second floor.
1/28/1908 Chicago, IL five buildings were partly destroyed by fire at Wabash and Michigan Avenues and Madison and Monroe Streets, elevated and surface car traffic was interrupted.
1/28/1889 Duluth, MN the Opera House was destroyed by fire at 2:00 a.m. that started in the basement and extended to the Post Office. There were five stores and numerous upper floor tenants in the Opera House Building including the Chamber of Commerce.
1/28/1884 a fire that originated in a store on Main Street extends to the harness shop in Mansfield, PA. Families that lived over the stores were displaced.
1/28/1873 Washington, DC the National Theatre fire started in the flues heating pipe that burst at 11:00 a.m. as rehearsal began and rapidly spread. The adjoining Imperial Hotel was slightly damaged.
1/28/1857 Philadelphia, PA the Girard Building was destroyed by fire about 11:00 p.m. that started in the third story of the large five story structure.
1/28/1907 Springfield, MA the Phelps Publishing Co comprising four brick buildings burned to the ground, “caused by spontaneous combustion among benzene soaked rags in the basement of the building.” “About 450 persons are out of employment” until the plan was rebuilt.
1/28/1884 Williamsport, PA the Thompson’s Box Factory on Hepburn Street and Canal was damaged by fire that started in the shaving room and planing mill between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m.
1/28/1980 Tampa Bay, FL the 180-foot U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorne, a buoy tender, sank in a collision with an oil tanker that killed twenty-three
1/28/1915 President Woodrow Wilson signed an “Act to Create the Coast Guard” that combined the Life-Saving Service and Revenue Cutter Service to form the modern-day U.S.C.G. The Coast Guard is under Title 14 of the United States Code, which states: “The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times.” Upon the declaration of war or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the authority of the Department of the Navy.