Today, February 14, Valentines Day is the anniversary of significant Firefighter loss fires in both Chicago & Pittsburgh.
==CHICAGO-2 CHIEFS KILLED IN FIRE/BUILDING COLLAPSE:
The fire was on Valentines Day in 1962. Friday was the anniversary of that Line of Duty deaths of Chicago Fire Battalion Chiefs Thomas Hoff and Robert O’Brien in a 4-11 fire on Chicago’s South Side. As well known Fire Buff Jim Regan from Chicago wrote: “I can just imagine how proud Chief Hoff would be of his 2 sons who entered the CFD, Ray who retired as a Battalion Chief and has since passed away, and Bobby who is now retired as CFD’s Fire Commissioner (who went on to be a suburban Chicago area Chief as well as a nationally recognized instructor), and his grandson Andy Hoff, Bob’s son, a member of the Downers Grove FD”
Chiefs Hoff and O’Brien were killed in the Line of Duty when a building collapsed during a fire at 70th and Dorchester in Chicago, Feb 14, 1962. The story of Thomas Hoff, Bob, and his older brother Ray, served as the basis for the movie “Backdraft”.
On February 14, 1962, two Chicago Fire Department chiefs died in the line of duty at an apartment building fire on E. 70th Street. Chief Robert J. O’Brien, head of the fire prevention bureau, and Battalion Chief Thomas A. Hoff, the Assistant Drillmaster for the CFD training school, were killed when the fire-weakened building collapsed.
A fire was reported in the basement of the apartment building shortly after 11:00 AM. Firefighters responded to the scene and successfully extinguished most of the fire. At approximately 12:35 PM, while firefighters were searching the apartments for trapped victims, the roof of the building began to sag and the west wall started to lean inward. Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn ordered all firefighters to evacuate the building, but the roof caved in before all of the firefighters could escape.
Chiefs O’Brien, Hoff, and Firefighter Frank Conley were on the third floor of the building and were a few steps away from escaping onto an outside porch when the roof collapsed. They fell with the debris down to the basement where they were trapped in the wreckage. Firefighter
Edward Stack, Hoff’s driver, was also on the third floor when the building collapsed, but he was able to roll out a door on the first floor as he fell with the debris. Stack later described how they had seen the ceiling start to crack and had heard the shouts from outside to evacuate the building, but when the west wall buckled the third floor gave way and the ceiling collapsed on them before they could reach the porch.
Firefighters immediately descended on the debris to try to rescue their colleagues. The rescue squads labored under a stream of water from hose lines, as the previously smoldering fire had rekindled and some of the debris was now burning furiously. Conley, who had fallen under a large beam that protected him from additional debris, was rescued thirty minutes after the collapse, having suffered some bruises and a broken finger. Chief O’Brien’s body was recovered a short time later, but efforts to reach Chief Hoff’s body were delayed over concerns about the weakened walls that were still standing. After wrecking equipment was brought in to take down the walls, Chief Hoff’s body was recovered around 6 PM. This account is courtesy of the Illinois Fire Service Institute:
More Details HERE:
==REMEMBERING 3 FF’s: A DWELLING FIRE ON BRICELYN STREET IN PITTSBURGH:
It was 25 years ago, in 1995 when 3 Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Firefighters died in the Line of Duty ….on Feb. 14, 1995… in that house fire. On that date, just after midnight PBF’s Captain Thomas Brooks of Engine 17 and Firefighters Patricia Conroy and Marc Kolenda of Engine 8 were sent to the now infamous Bricelyn Street fire. FF’s Conroy and Kolenda were working from Engine 17 that day.
Brooks, 42, Conroy, 43, and Kolenda, 27, became separated from other crews when a stairwell inside the home collapsed. At the time, other Firefighters and Officers didn’t know the three were trapped and possibly unconscious until it was too late.
According to reports, (see below) their SCBA’s malfunctioned, they didn’t all have radios to call for help, their low-air indicators on their tanks, PASS alarms did not work and there was no system to account for Firefighters operating at the scene. (More on MAYDAY’s below)
Their loss triggered changes throughout North America’s fire service including what we know today as RIT, FAST or On-Deck Teams-focused on the rescue of downed or trapped firefighters.
Captain Brooks, a 13-year veteran, left behind 2 children. FF Conroy, an 8-year-veteran, and FF Kolenda, a Firefighter for 14 months, were each engaged at the time, but childless. Rest In Peace.
BRICELYN STREET FIRE REPORTS HERE:
USFA REPORT: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tr-078.pdf
NFPA REPORT: https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Resources/Fire-Investigations/pittsburgh.ashx?la=en
RELATED BRICELYN STREET ARTICLES:https://www.firerescue1.com/arson-investigation/articles/the-fire-on-bricelyn-street-akDKhd83gDzxr3Hl/
MAYDAY RESEARCH FACTS FROM CHIEF DON ABBOTT:https://www.firehouse.com/safety-health/article/21040224/close-calls-mayday-reality-check-firehouse-magazine
REMINDER: EACH DAY our crew posts a very detailed history of fires that have impacted the fire service-specific to Line of Duty Deaths HERE:https://www.firefighterclosecalls.com/category/firefighter-history/
Take Care. Be Careful. Pass It On.