On 1/3/1940 a frigid winter morning just before dawn, about 5:45 a.m. an explosion and fire at the modest three-story Marlborough Apartment Hotel at Third Avenue South and Fifteenth Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota killed nineteen that housed more than 120 residents. Believed to have started with a smoldering cigarette wrapped in garbage thrown down the trash chute. The “45-year-old brick and frame building, had been inspected four years earlier but no violations of the city’s fire code were reported.” “The building was heated by a steam plant fed by coal, and this was found to be in good working order in the 1936 check.” “Fire trucks raced to the scene, but they were hampered by near-zero temperatures, and the building was already a mass of flames by the time the first rigs reached the hotel. Observers reported hearing the trapped residents screaming for help and watching as they frantically smashed windows with fists, chairs, and shoes to escape. Firefighters struggled with frantic victims as they tried to carry them to safety. One firefighter was bringing a hysterical woman down the fire ladder when she struggled to get free. Both she and her rescuer fell two floors to the sidewalk and were seriously injured. As the flames poured out of his third-floor apartment, one man could not wait for the ladders to reach him and his wife. He pushed her out the window, and she fell to her death. He leaped out the window after her and survived. One passerby, a twenty-nine-year-old cab driver joined in the rescue effort. Described as a hero by several observers, he caught many of the children who jumped out of the burning building or were tossed out by their parents. Later, after the fire had been extinguished, a Minneapolis Tribune reporter described the smoldering ruins: “There was evidence everywhere that human beings once had lived in these blackened rooms. But you couldn’t help but wonder how it was possible that anyone escaped.” The survivors, many of whom suffered severe burns and fractures, were rushed to Minneapolis General Hospital, where several of them were treated with sulfanilamide. The hospital’s medical team had pioneered the use of this antibacterial ointment, which was considered a “wonder drug”. Fire investigators were not able to determine with certainty the cause of the blaze, but they speculated it might have been sparked by smoldering cigarette butts wrapped in garbage thrown down a trash chute. The hotel, a forty-five-year-old brick and frame building, had been inspected four years earlier, when no violations of the city’s fire code had been noted, according to the Minneapolis Star Journal. Later investigations confirmed there were no building deficiencies that could have caused the blaze. The building’s owner, who lived at the hotel, was in no way responsible for the disaster. Still, the city building inspector used the fire to call for stepped-up action against building-code violations.
On 1/3/1894 a Toledo, Ohio firefighter burned to death at the King Elevator fire, his body was never recovered.
On 1/3/1906 a Springfield, Massachusetts firefighter was killed, and a second firefighter was seriously injured in “an incendiary fire, which destroyed the Highland Baptist Church. The fire started in an adjoining barn, in which fires had been set twice previously in two months. Twice during the past two years, fires were discovered in the chapel of the church.” Four firefighters were in the barn when the roof fell; three were pulled out, but it was impossible to reach the fourth firefighter.
On 1/3/1910 four Milwaukee, Wisconsin firefighters were crushed to death instantly under the falling roof during a fire. “On arrival, firefighters found heavy fire showing through a portion of the roof on the one-story brick, block-long American Bridge steel plant on Saint Paul Street. As the members of Engine 4 were moving their line in through a center door, the water hit the red-hot beams holding the roof up and the entire roof crashed down on top of them.”
On 1/3/1918 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) died while operating at a three-alarm fire in a picture frame factory. He was killed when he was caught under a collapsing wall.
On 1/3/1921 a fire destroyed the State Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia. A firefighter and electrician died in a partial building collapse. The fire is believed to have started on the top floor where ammunition was stored. Two men were arrested for taking a fire engine on a joyride during the fire.
On 1/3/1925 a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighter “died after being overcome with smoke after operating at a two-alarm fire at an auto body shop fire at 2518 N. Broad Street.”
On 1/3/1927 a Buffalo, New York firefighter “died after he drowned while operating at a fire in a school basement at Massachusetts and Utica Streets. He had been overcome by smoke and became submerged after his boots and clothing became waterlogged.”
On 1/3/1928 a Chicago, Illinois firefighter died while fighting a fire in a vacant barn on West 48th Street. Four firefighters were operating inside the two-story barn when the roof collapsed. The firefighters were buried in the burning debris.
On 1/3/1929 a Newark, New Jersey firefighter died while he was operating on the roof of the Central Stamping Company factory fire when the smokestack fell sending him to the ground. He was found dead in the debris.
On 1/3/1933 a Hartford, Connecticut died of smoke inhalation while operating at a very serious cellar fire in a restaurant.
On 1/3/1953 a Milwaukee, Wisconsin firefighter was asphyxiated at a three-alarm fire at 5323-31 W. Center Street.
On 1/3/1965 a Little Creek, Delaware firefighter “died after suffering a fatal heart attack, while operating at a fire inside a burning home on Port Mahon Road when he collapsed.”
On 1/3/1989 a South Holland, Illinois firefighter died while fighting a fire at the headquarters of a trucking company. He had just arrived at the fire when a sixty-pound propane tank on a burning forklift truck exploded. The tank was thrown more than thirty feet and struck him in the parking lot as he was unloading a hose from a fire engine. The tank continued to travel another 125 feet.
On 1/3/1995 a Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died of Carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of injuries while battling a 5-story apartment building fire at 23 Rutgers Street in Chinatown two days after Christmas. Flames spread fast when a candle was knocked over in what they called a gambling den in the basement. The flames were fed by kerosene spilled from an illegal heater. The firefighters evacuated far more people, largely immigrants from China, than they had expected to find in a building of that size, the authorities said later. The firefighter thought there might be others still trapped inside, so he went in to search further.”
On 1/3/2007 an Upland, Indiana firefighter was seriously injured after falling through a floor while fighting a structure fire. “The Upland Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a structure fire at 1535 hours. Upon their arrival, firefighters found a 2-story wood frame structure with heavy smoke showing. There was no fire visible from the exterior. A firefighter was by himself, on the nozzle of the attack line, a short distance into the structure. He began to flow water on visible fire. As he rotated to apply water, his feet fell through the floor. He held himself at floor level with his arms but was unable to get out of the hole. Firefighters entered the structure in an attempt to free him from the hole but were unable to do so due to smoke conditions and the lack of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) by some firefighters. A firefighter with an SCBA held on to the trapped firefighter to prevent him from falling into the basement. A large piece of plaster fell and struck this firefighter on the head. The firefighter lost his hold on the trapped firefighter, and he fell into the basement. Firefighters lowered a ground ladder into the hole and entered the basement. After some difficulty, the trapped firefighter was removed from the basement and brought to a waiting ambulance. Approximately 20 minutes had passed from the time he fell into the hole and when he was removed from the structure. The firefighter was transported by ambulance and medical helicopter to a regional hospital. Despite treatment at the hospital, he died on January 5, 2007. The cause of death was listed as positional asphyxiation.”
On 1/3/2008 a Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter died while working a high-rise fire. “His engine company was dispatched as a part of a full assignment to a report of a fire in a 25-story residential high-rise occupancy. The crew used the firefighter’s feature to ride an elevator to the floor below the reported fire. He and his crew used the stairs to ascend to the 14th floor. When they opened the door from the stairwell to the fire floor, firefighters discovered heavy smoke. He donned his SCBA and entered the hallway to look for the location of the apartment that was on fire. The floor layout for the building was confusing and the apartment numbering system was not clear so finding the apartment that was experiencing the fire was difficult. Once the apartment was discovered, firefighters advanced a hoseline and began to apply water to the fire. The fire was intensified by a strong wind. Firefighters working in the fire apartment discovered his body on the floor of the apartment, approximately 3 feet from the doorway. He was unconscious and his facepiece and helmet had been removed. A report prepared by the fire department concluded that he ran out of air less than 20 minutes after donning his facepiece and was unable to exit the apartment before being overcome. The indirect causes of his death were cited as fire play by a child, the failure of the apartment occupants to close the apartment door when they evacuated, failure to team up with another member while operating in an IDLH atmosphere, and failure to leave the IDLH atmosphere when the SCBA low air indicators activated.”
On 1/3/2014 a 1:00 p.m. fire in a Chinese ceramics factory warehouse killed five firefighters and thirteen were injured after a floor collapsed in Harbin, a city in the northern Heilongjiang province of China. “Firefighters had moved on to the second floor to clear paper and plastics inside and to douse flames above them when the floor collapsed.”
On 1/3/2018 a fire broke out in the property owned by former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary in Chappaqua, New York. Flames erupted in the ceiling of the second floor of a Secret Service structure behind the Clintons’ home. The Clintons were not on the property at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported, the fire was reported at 2:51 p.m. and the fire was extinguished at 3:17 p.m.
On 1/3/2001 in Oak Orchard, Delaware a house fire killed eleven family members that filled their southern Delaware home with smoke at 3:00 a.m. The fire gutted the house, but the exterior bore little evidence of the destruction.
On 1/3/1961 an explosion at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls, Idaho ripped the top off of the atomic reactor killing three. The 9:02 p.m. blast destroyed the Low Power Reactor No.1, a stationary prototype of a mobile reactor designed to generate electric power in the field for the Army. The reactor had been shut down for 10 days.
On 1/3/1930 a Shreveport, Louisiana hotel fire claimed a life and destroyed the two upper floors of the three-story Tullos Hotel in the downtown area. The fire is believed to have originated in the hallway immediately outside the room occupied by the victim.
On 1/3/1916 a hotel fire in Worcester, Massachusetts drove forty guests wearing only nightclothes into a raging hailstorm as flames and smoke filled the building; all escaped without injury.
On 1/3/1914 a building collapse killed four in a recently remodeled three-story building in South Bend, Indiana. The lower floor was vacant, a restaurant occupied the second floor of the Shively and Honor building.
On 1/3/1900 a cotton warehouse was destroyed by fire in Gainesville, Georgia. The fire originated, some think, from a spark from a railroad engine around 4:00 a.m.
On 1/3/1899 a tenement house fire in Providence, Rhode Island left eight families homeless and killed a resident at 2:00 a.m. that stared in the front part of the attic, probably from a lamp.
On 1/3/1891 a grocery store and residence were destroyed by a fire that extended to a large stock of fireworks, “which made a brilliant pyrotechnic display” in Charleston, West Virginia.
On 1/3/1879 the Second Baptist Church of Saint Louis, Missouri was destroyed by fire and extends to Saint Mary’s Institute (school). “Both buildings are entirely new, and among the finest in the city. The church had not yet been dedicated.”