On 1/21/1924 while operating at a major fire in a refinery storage yard, seven Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania firefighters died, they all suffocated when an explosion blew them into a large vat of paraffin. “Around 5:24 a.m. at the Atlantic Refinery Company, located at 57th and Butler Street along the bank of the Allegheny River in the Pittsburgh section of Lawrenceville. A six-inch gasoline pipeline failed at a ninety-degree elbow. The piping system, located within one of the firewalls of the storage facility, carried the fuel from the refinery in the brick and concrete Receiving and Testing House. The failure resulted in thousands of gallons of newly refined gasoline being pumped, into the building at 40 psi. The fuel ignited the resulting spectacular explosive fireball. Fortunately, the operators at the facility were able to shut off the flow of gasoline. The huge gasoline fire was already consuming the Receiving House and one of the crude oil storage tanks. “Without warning a section of the ladder above the firewall suddenly broke. A nine-foot section of the top fly failed under the weight of two firefighters hurling them fourteen feet down onto the top of tank No.144. They fell into the midst of their comrades. The impact on the top of the tank, plus his weight multiplied by their velocity, and the weight of six other firefighters was more than that small section of the roof could stand. The section failed, and seven Pittsburgh firefighters plunged simultaneously into four thousand gallons of freezing crude oil. The tank cover was made of wood framing and was covered by ⅞” plywood sheeting and tarpaper. According to a refinery engineer report, the cover had a strength of eighty pounds per square foot. The men in the oil had no chance of survival. They were all dressed in heavy winter clothing under their long-rubberized fire coats. They all were wearing leather fire boots, which were immediately filled with oil. The tank was somewhat less than half-full so they plunged twelve feet into eight feet of icy cold oil. Their momentum carried them right to the bottom of the tank where they were initially mired in a thick sludge of old oil waste. By the time they hit the bottom of the tank, they would have already inhaled their first gulp of oil; the human response to being suddenly thrust into cold water is an involuntary gasping inhale. The refinery operators had put fire foam into every tank in the battery. The foam was generated in a separate building and pumped to the tanks through a piping system. There were several feet of the fire foam mixture of aluminum sulfate, sodium bicarbonate, and extract of licorice, on top of the oil. When the three compounds were combined a chemical reaction caused bubbles of carbon-dioxide gas to form. It was the CO2 bubbles that created the blanket of foam. In less than one minute there was no longer any movement in the tank and all was quiet.”
On 1/21/1975 a fire at the Gargantua bar in Montreal, Quebec killed thirteen people, in a nightclub described by police as “an underworld hangout.” All ten men and three women were found in a cramped sixty-square-foot beer storage closet padlocked closed and the jukebox pushed against the door. Twelve were asphyxiated and one died of a gunshot wound. “Firefighters discovered the bodies almost by chance, as they were fighting what they thought was a routine blaze at about 2:00 a.m. Pursuing flames into the ceiling, they moved a jukebox that had been pushed up against a locked door of the closet, a beer storage room about the size of a passenger elevator, and broke the lock. The burned‐out tavern, in a predominantly French‐Canadian working‐class neighborhood three miles north of the glossy downtown section that is familiar to tourists in Montreal, was known as an underworld hangout. In October (1974) two men said to have criminal connections were shot and killed there as they sat having a drink. Detectives said that the fire fatalities might have been related to that double murder, which has not been solved.”
On 1/21/1893 the southwestern limited express, westbound on the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Saint Louis railroad ran an open switch at 45 MPH four miles east of Wann, Illinois around 9:00 a.m. crashed into a train of freight cars standing on the siding. Three oil tanks exploded and scattered oil over the wreck which caught fire. “Sixteen people died of their injuries and many more were believed to be fatally burned.”
On 1/21/1921 a San Jose, California firefighter was injured “on the evening of December 7, 1920, he responded with Chemical Engine 1 to a $250,000 fire in the F. W. Gross Dry Goods store at 52 South First Street. Groping through the hot darkened basement towards the seat of the fire, he was overcome by smoke and hot gases collapsing in the basement. A rescue ensued. He was taken to O’Connor Sanitarium (now O’Connor Hospital) where he rallied during the next few weeks and through Christmas. However, on January 21, 1921, after taking a turn for the worse, he died in Columbia Hospital from injuries to his lungs sustained at the fire.”
On 1/21/1922 a Milwaukee, Wisconsin firefighter died as a result of injuries he sustained after he had fallen from a ladder at the Bay View Grocery, 199 Howell Avenue fire.
On 1/21/1940 Chicago, Illinois firefighter died as a result of head injuries he sustained after being struck in the head by a steel beam at Box #252.
On 1/21/1954 an Olathe, Kansas firefighter “died at a house fire.”
1/21/1959 a Memphis, Tennessee firefighter “suffered a heart attack while operating at a fire in a vacant house, at 1233 Madison Avenue. He was transported to the hospital where he died about an hour later.”
On 1/21/1972 a Louisville, Kentucky firefighter “died after falling off a roof while fighting a fire.”
On 1/21/1998 a Fairlea, West Virginia firefighter died after responding to a report of smoke in a supermarket. “The market was contained in a strip mall which also included a post office and a photo-processing store. Two firefighters entered the front of the store in full protective clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) to search for the fire. They became disoriented while trying to exit the store. One of the firefighters alerted the other firefighters on the scene by radio that he and the other firefighter (victim) were lost and in need of rescue. One firefighter ran out of air and placed the breathing tube from his SCBA into his coat in an attempt to breathe. The other firefighter was able to escape without significant injury. Immediate attempts were made by firefighters to rescue the missing firefighter, but rescuers were driven back by intense heat and smoke. He was wearing a (personal alert safety system) PASS device, but it was not turned on. No hose line or search rope was used. The cause of death was smoke and soot inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, and complete body charring. This was an accidental fire caused by an electrical malfunction in a wall.”
On 1/21/2002 a Surfside Beach, South Carolina firefighter “collapsed and died from cardiac arrest while fighting a three-story condominium fire. “First-arriving firefighters found smoke on the first floor and active fire on the second floor. An attack line was deployed to the second floor for fire extinguishment and another line was deployed to look for fire extension. The fire was knocked down with no extension into the attic. The firefighter was on the second-floor landing overseeing operations after helping to extend the second line. He was wearing full structural firefighting protective clothing and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). He suddenly collapsed. Firefighters brought him down one floor and removed his protective coat and SCBA and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was initiated immediately.”
On 1/21/2006 a Montreal, Canada firefighter was killed while battling a five-alarm fire in a residential apartment building. During the initial attack, he became trapped in an apparent flashover and separated from his team.
On 1/21/2015 a four-story apartment complex was destroyed by an accidental fire that consumed 240 apartments and permanently displaced 500 residents around 4:30 p.m. in Edgewater, New Jersey. Firefighters were hampered by frigid temperatures and high winds.
On 1/21/2012 three Marist College students died in an off-campus house fire that started about 1:30 a.m. in Poughkeepsie, New York. The house was being rented by six female Marist students.
On 1/21/1949 the 100-room 75-year-old five-story Orton Hotel and six adjacent buildings were destroyed by fire in Wilmington, North Carolina. Forty guests of the hotel escaped, and nobody was hurt in the fire that started slightly after midnight. The other buildings destroyed include the Royal Theater, a clothing store, a men’s shop, a dress shop, the fashion center, and the Cinderella Bootery.
On 1/21/1911 a fire in Clarksburg, West Virginia destroyed the Traders hotel block and the Grand opera house that started in a servant’s room of the hotel and spread rapidly to a score of businesses located on the block. One person was killed when a wall collapsed.
On 1/21/1910 “fanned to fury by a raging wind from the northwest, a fire was started in a dwelling at 11:00 a.m. and swept through the business center of the town of Wiggins, Mississippi destroying all the buildings and three business blocks located east of the railroad track.”
On 1/21/1909 in Canfield, Ohio a fire of unknown origin killed two and injured fifteen aged inmates and destroyed the men’s building of the Mahoning County Infirmary.
On 1/21/1904 a natural gas explosion and fire destroyed the Seitz Hotel in Marion, Indiana killing three and seriously injuring twelve of the thirty people asleep on the second floor.
On 1/21/1889 the Bowie County Courthouse in Texarkana, Texas was destroyed by fire.
On 1/21/1886 an explosion ripped through a coal mine at the Orrell Coal Company near Newburg, West Virginia killed thirty-seven around 3:00 p.m. The mine produced averaged 250 tons of coal per day for the last 25 years and employed about 250 men.
On 1/21/1871 the Greenville, Pennsylvania conflagration began in a three-story wooden structure on Main and Race Streets and spread along the street damaging about 23 buildings.
On 1/21/1996 an overloaded ferry, Gurita, sank in a storm off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, that killed 340.