FIREFIGHTER HISTORY 11/23

On 11/23/1963 Golden Age nursing home of Fitchville, Ohio fire killed sixty-three and injured twenty-five most were over 60 years old and many were invalids, in the 60-year-old former Norwood Chronic Hospital at a 4:45 a.m. flash fire spread rapidly through the building; firefighters were unable to rescue those trapped. The news of the fire was overshadowed by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in Dallas, Texas on November 22. “The L-shaped, concrete block, one-story, 186-by-65 foot building had passed inspection the previous March. The original building was constructed with cement blocks on a slab foundation with a flat wood roof covered by paper and tar. The facility had an undivided attic, no automatic sprinkler system, no local manual fire alarm, and only three portable fire extinguishers. Interior renovations were made initially in 1953 to convert it into a nursing home, with the lobby being constructed in 1955. The facility also had a 2-room addition that was made of wood, aluminum siding, and plywood paneling. Twenty-two residents lived in the addition. The fire began so quickly that any attempt to call the local fire department proved fruitless when the facility’s telephone wires were burned. By the time firefighters arrived at the building around 10 minutes after the first call, the building was engulfed by flames from one end to the other. The building’s owner indicated that many of the residents could have been saved had they not panicked. “Instead of going out the doors, they went back to their beds.” It was also reported that some of the deceased victims were restrained to their beds, or trapped in wheelchairs that were too wide to exit the rooms properly.”

On 11/23/1983 a fire at the Travel Master Inn Motel located at 225 W. First Street in Dayton, Ohio killed one guest on the 4th floor, injured over twenty, and property damage exceeding $700,000. The rectangular mixed-construction four-story building with a basement contained 66 guest rooms on the upper floors and a registration and lounge area on the ground level. The building’s fire detection and alarm system sounded earlier in the evening and was deactivated, by the clerk that investigated and discovered a trash can fire in the third-floor exit corridor and extinguished it with a portable fire extinguisher, and then did not reset the alarm because of residual smoke in the corridor. Two and a half hours later, a guest notified the desk clerk of a fire on the 3rd floor, who called the fire department at 4:01 a.m. Heavy smoke and fire conditions were observed by firefighters on the top two floors at the north end of the building, with about 25 guests awaiting rescue in many of the windows on all guest room levels. The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

On 11/23/1983 a five-alarm fire caused over $15 million in damage to the University Hills Mall, a large shopping center in Denver, Colorado. A burglar alarm detected the “fire” at 12:22 a.m. in the concealed space above a drug store, apparently starting from an electrical malfunction. The fire spread to the south in the unrestricted concealed attic spaces below the roof and above the suspended ceilings. Thirteen stores were destroyed, and nineteen others were damaged. The completely enclosed mall was partially protected by a sprinkler system; originally built as an open-air shopping center without sprinkler protection or firewalls. Sprinklers were provided in the mall when the shopping center was enclosed. Only one line of sprinkler heads was installed inside each store bordering the mall. Over 120 firefighters worked and controlled the fire at 6:00 a.m.

On 11/23/1898 a Cambridge, Massachusetts firefighter “died as a result of injuries he sustained November 10th, when he was caught under a collapsing wall while operating at a fire in a meat company icehouse.”

On 11/23/1925 a Waterbury, Connecticut firefighter “died after suffering complications due to smoke inhalation.”

On 11/23/1929 a Memphis, Tennessee firefighter died “while operating at a fire involving the old Chamber of Commerce building. He went out to a fire escape to tighten a hose connection. As he exited the smoke-filled window, he plunged six floors to his death.”

On 11/23/1947 a Los Angeles, California firefighter was killed, and two others were injured in an early morning fire at the Harold Furniture Company, 1315 Wilshire Blvd. The fire appeared to be under control when a sudden flashover caught the firefighters just inside the front door.

On 11/23/1952 a New Haven, Connecticut firefighter “died from the injuries he sustained after having fallen from a ladder.”

On 11/23/1967 a Boston, Massachusetts firefighter “died from smoke inhalation while working in the attic of a house at 49 Hartford Street, Roxbury, Box 1777 (Hartford & Wayland Streets) at 2:46 a.m… His death was responsible for the removal of the ‘All Service Masks’ from the department by the Chief of the Department.”

On 11/23/1997 a Houma, Louisiana firefighter died from injuries he received “on November 18, 1997, after he entered a structure fire wearing breathing apparatus. He was seen later exiting the structure, still with an SCBA, when he collapsed and fell into the arms of another firefighter. Firefighters performed CPR on the scene, he was then taken to the hospital where he died several days later.”

11/23/2006 an Atlanta, Georgia firefighter “was seriously injured during a fire in a one-story abandoned duplex house. He was working in the interior of the structure fire with other crew members for less than a minute when they were ordered to evacuate the structure because of extreme conditions. At about the same time a flashover or flameover occurred. The firefighter became disoriented and was unable to exit the burning structure. The injured firefighter was rescued approximately 4 minutes later and transported to a metropolitan trauma center where he remained in critical condition for several days in the burn unit before succumbing to his injuries on November 29, 2006… The structure was a small one-story Type III Ordinary Construction duplex residence originally built in the 1940s. The structure was abandoned and in disrepair at the time of the incident. The exterior doors and windows were boarded up with plywood. The exterior dimensions of the structure were 36 feet wide and 34 feet in depth. The exterior walls were constructed of brick and the roof had multiple layers of asphalt shingles. The floor was a cement slab over a crawl space, with some carpeting present. The interior walls originally consisted of drywall gypsum/plaster over wood framing, but all the drywall had been removed exposing the wood studs/furring strips and ceiling rafters. This in effect connected all the rooms into one uncompartmentalized space. Most interior furnishings including doors, plumbing fixtures/piping, and electrical fixtures/wiring were missing. There were no utilities connected to the structure… The crew experienced a flashover-like event after only being on the scene for less than four minutes. The intense heat and flame forced the crew to the floor as the interior was fully involved and flames burst out the front door. The crew immediately began to back out. A firefighter recalled grabbing his foot while moving towards the doorway and colliding with other disoriented firefighters. Once outside he told the Engine 16 acting officer that one firefighter was “still in there!”

On 11/23/2008 a Staten Island, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died at a 2nd-Alarm Box 0021 for 39 Van Buren. He and his engine company responded to a structure fire in a residence. He and his crew were working in the attic of the structure when a collapse occurred. His helmet and facepiece were dislodged by the collapse. He was rescued and brought to the exterior by other firefighters. He was taken to the hospital but did not survive. The cause of death was smoke inhalation.”

On 11/23/2012 a gas explosion injured eighteen, including nine firefighters in Springfield, Massachusetts. Responders had evacuated part of the entertainment district and surrounding area before the natural gas explosion that leveled a strip club located next to a daycare occupancy, and heavily damaged a dozen other structures; the explosion blew out windows in a three-block radius, leaving at least three buildings irreparably damaged.

On 11/23/2016 an early-morning, off-campus house fire near the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale campus killed a male student in a two-story, wood, balloon-framed, single-family house that had been converted into a six-bedroom rooming house. The building was fully involved when the fire department arrived. The victim was found in a first-floor bedroom. There were no reports of smoke alarms sounding upon arrival fire department.

On 11/23/1910 the Koch & Henke Store collapsed in Cleveland, Ohio killing four. The store was gutted by fire several months ago.

On 11/23/1898 the San Francisco, California Baldwin Hotel fire claims two lives. “A fire which broke out in the east end of the building shortly after 3 o’clock this morning, supposedly in the property room of the Baldwin Theatre, destroyed the immense structure.”

On 11/23/1891 the Old Homestead Hotel fire in Jamestown, New York leaves four dead.The fire started from a range in the wooden kitchen, and the flames gutted the main building.”

 On 11/23/1866 the Keene, New Hampshire conflagration started around 5:30 p.m. A fire started in the cellar of a store on the west side of Central Square and spread up the stairway of the four-story building. A cask containing Kerosene exploded scattering flames in every direction, among barrels of oil, dry, empty boxes, and straw.