FIREFIGHTER HISTORY 1/7

On 1/7/1950 a fire destroyed Saint Elizabeth’s, the women’s psychiatric ward at the Mercy Hospital, killing forty-one people and injuring thirty-one in Davenport, Iowa. Sixty-five women and three men were in the building most sleeping when the fire started at 2:00 a.m. in the three-story 80-year-old brick structure. The three male patients escaped, leaping from an unbarred window. “The path to safety for many of the patients was blocked by barred windows.” “There were no sprinkler or fire alarm systems, and the windows of patient rooms were covered with metal bars… The patients were attended to by a nurse and an aide. One patient was a woman who had been locked in isolation. This was an abnormal treatment for her; enraged, she used a contraband cigarette lighter to ignite a curtain in her room. No one noticed the flames until it was too late. Around 2:00 a.m., an employee in an adjacent building saw the flames spilling from St. Elizabeth’s and told his coworkers to call the fire department. He raced to the burning building to investigate but was turned away by the growing fire. Firefighters arrived on the west side of the building to find flames erupting from some of the windows; behind other windows, they could see silhouettes of the women pressed against them, behind the bars, backlit by the glow of the raging fire. The ward had no evacuation plan, and locked doors prevented movement inside the building. Outside, many rescue attempts were thwarted by the barred windows, firefighters had to chop the bars out of each wooden window frame to reach patients trapped in their rooms. The fire killed 40 of the ward’s patients, along with the on-duty nurse. Responders rescued 22 patients and the nurse’s aide… An investigation revealed critical deficiencies that exacerbated the fire. The fire department had recommended a sprinkler system for the facility for more than 25 years, but it had never been installed. The absence of fire protection systems and an evacuation plan, along with locked egress doors and barred windows, led to a reevaluation of the fire hazards in health care occupancies that had been neglected for most of the era.”

On 1/7/1881 thirteen inmates at the Stafford County Farm in Dover, New Hampshire died in a fire at 4:30 a.m. One hundred and sixty-nine persons were in the building at the time of the fire that reportedly started from the furnace. “The Waterworks were rendered useless by the extreme drought, and no water could be obtained.” “The fire was discovered in the kitchen around 4:30 a.m. A physician was awakened by the smell of smoke and investigated, in the kitchen, he discovered that fire was just burning through the floor. He gave the alarm and with the help of two staff members “set about the removal of those who, by reason of age or other infirmities of mind or body were unable to help themselves.” The main entrance was cut off by fire leaving but one exit. The able-bodied men and women escaped through windows not having time to snatch a garment to cover them from the biting cold and deep snow. Some ran long distances till they were overcome and fell by the roadside to be picked up later. Thirteen of the 164 inmates perished in the flames.”

On 1/7/1879 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter died as a result of a fractured skull sustained in a building collapse.

On 1/7/1880 a Memphis, Tennessee firefighter “died as a result of injuries he sustained the previous day when he and two other firefighters were caught under a collapsing wall while operating at a major factory fire. One of the other men was killed instantly in the collapse.”

On 1/7/1893 a New Haven, Connecticut firefighter “died of the injuries he sustained while operating at a house fire.”

On 1/7/1929 two firefighters were killed in Lima, Ohio during the Allen County Courthouse fire when part of the roof collapsed burying them on the second floor of the building. There was an eight-foot concealed space between the ceiling of the second story and the floor of the third, where the fire started, “presumably from a blow torch being used to thaw frozen pipes.” Many county records were destroyed.

On 1/7/1948 a Springfield, Ohio firefighter “died at City Hospital after being overcome while operating at a fire at 903 Mound Street.”

On 1/7/1960 a Cleveland, Ohio firefighter collapsed and died while working at a three-story apartment building fire at 1846 East 90th Street.

On 1/7/1970 a District of Columbia (Washington DC) firefighter “died as a result of inhaling toxic fumes while operating at a fire involving Xerox copying machine chemicals at the Navy Yard the previous day.”

On 1/7/1974 a Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter “suffered a fatal heart attack while working on the roof of a blazing building at 238 President Street. Although Ladder 109 normally covers Bay Ridge, the unit was called to the Park Slope area to cover the blaze. During the fire fighting operations, the firefighter worked as the “roof man”, opening skylights and other openings to ventilate the smoking, steamy building. Fellow firefighters futilely administered artificial respiration and he was rushed to Long Island College Hospital where he was pronounced dead.”

On 1/7/1975 a Buffalo, New York firefighter while operating at a fire in a vacant 2-½-story frame dwelling was crushed to death when the attic floor he was standing on collapsed bringing down the walls and part of the roof.

On 1/7/1976 a Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter died from injuries he sustained when the floor he was working on collapsed, and he became trapped in the basement.

On 1/7/1985 two Sauk Centre, Minnesota firefighters died while operating at a restaurant fire. “On arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke showing from the second floor of the two-story-frame restaurant that was shaped like a boat. Firefighters advanced a line to the second floor and were forcing entry through a door into the bar area when the floor suddenly collapsed. They were pitched into a first-floor utility room that was fully involved in the fire and died of smoke inhalation. Another firefighter managed to grab hold of some floorboards and was able to pull himself back up.”

On 1/7/1952 a fire in the 7-story wood frame Congress Hotel that was closed for the winter spread to the five-story Lorraine Hotel and five large rooming houses in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All three buildings were destroyed by fire fanned by a strong 30-mile-an-hour wind from the Atlantic Ocean that started around 7:00 a.m.

On 1/7/1913 the business section of Mason City, Iowa was destroyed by a fire that started in the Lombardo confectionary store on State Street around 1:30 a.m. “Several business blocks on State and Michigan Streets were in ashes before the progress of the fire could be checked” on the extremely cold night leaving “a score or more families homeless.”

On 1/7/1910 twenty-one buildings in the business district of Bramwell, West Virginia were destroyed by fire, and martial law was declared.

On 1/7/1908 rioters burn the Courthouse in Bryson City, North Carolina following an open revolt a few nights ago between blacks and whites, all the town and county records were destroyed, and “no public documents of any kind were saved.”

On 1/7/1892 a mine explosion left 100 dead and 150 seriously injured when an “inexperienced worker accidentally set off a stash of explosives” in Krebs, Oklahoma that “was mainly due to the mine owner’s emphasis on profits over safety. Southeastern Oklahoma was a prime location for mining at the turn of the 19th century. Much of the land belonged to Native Americans and thus was exempt from U.S. federal government laws and regulations. Although the mining company’s indifferent attitude toward safety was well-known, there were more than enough immigrants in the area willing to work in the dangerous conditions at the Krebs mine, where most miners were of Italian and Russian descent. The Osage Coal & Mining Company’s Number 11 mine was notorious for its poor conditions. This led to a high turnover of workers, and the company routinely hired unskilled labor, providing little in the way of training to get them up to speed. This was true for even the most dangerous jobs, like handling explosives and munitions.”

On 1/7/1881 a boiler explosion at the Big Puddle (Rolling) Mill in Allentown, Pennsylvania killed twelve and injured six of the 200 employees working at the plant when the five-year-old 30-foot-long boiler, made of 5/16“-iron, began leaking and then exploded sending “flying missiles” throughout the plant and releasing scalding steam.

On 1/7/2013 a fireworks explosion caused an elevated portion 260-foot east-west highway to collapse near Beijing China when a 100-foot bridge collapsed crushing and burying, at least 25 vehicles in Mianchi County killing nine and injuring thirteen people.