FIREFIGHTER HISTORY 12/2

On 12/2/2016, at approximately 11:20 p.m. a fire broke out in a “former warehouse” converted into an artist collective with living spaces known as Ghost Ship. The warehouse in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, California, was hosting a concert in a building permitted only for industrial purposes. Residential and entertainment uses were illegal. Thirty-six of eighty to one hundred people who attended the concert died. “The 9,880-square-foot (918 m2) 160 by 48-foot cement-block warehouse was constructed in 1930. The property was purchased in 1988 by Chor Ng, who is linked to 17 other properties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ng owned a body shop, a cell phone store, that shared the same electrical supply as the Ghost Ship. One resident who rented a space in the building in 2014 reported that the entire building’s electrical system was dependent on extension cords. Living spaces on the first floor were connected by makeshift hallways constructed of “aggregates of salvaged and scavenged materials, such as pianos, organs, windows, wood benches, lumber, and innumerable other items stacked next to and on top of each other.” The live-work spaces were separated by a variety of things, including “wooden studs, steel beams, doors, window frames, bed frames, railings, pianos, benches, chairs, intact motorhomes and trailers, portions of trailers, corrugated metal sheeting, tapestries, plywood, sculptures, tree stumps, and tree limbs. The city has received ten complaints about the property since 1998, including formal complaints about hazardous garbage and construction debris around the building. The Oakland Planning and Building Department opened an investigation into the building on November 13 based on a complaint about “blight” and “illegal interior construction”. The fire spread extremely quickly and generated heavy, deadly smoke. Several factors prevented visitors to the second floor from learning of the fire and impeded their escape from it. Most importantly, there were no fire alarms, fire sprinklers, or smoke alarms in the building. Once the fire was detected, the stairwells and their position relative to exits, the makeshift construction, and the huge fuel load created by the furnishings made it difficult to survive long enough to escape. The first firefighters, from Engine 13 whose station was one-and-a-half blocks away, reached the warehouse at 11:27 p.m., within three minutes of the first 911 call. Their only access was a man-door that had been cut through a commercial steel roll-up door.”

On 12/2/1896 during church services, “a priest smelled smoke and sent a message across the street to the quarters of Atlantic City (New Jersey) Fire Department Engine 6 and went about continuing with the service. On arrival, firefighters found a fire in the frame of the structure around the chimney and pulled the box alarm, bringing additional units to the scene.” “The parishioners barely had enough time to escape with their lives as the fire began to rapidly spread throughout the church. High winds, sub-freezing temperatures, and dense smoke hampered firefighting efforts, but firefighters maintained an aggressive interior attack on the blaze. As it appeared that the roof was in danger of collapsing, the fire chief ordered all men out of the building. Some had to exit the building by smashing out windows and others had to blindly follow hose lines back out into the street. Suddenly, the entire roof caved into the flaming building with a tremendous crash.” Two firefighters did not make it out and were killed by the roof collapse.

On 12/2/1890 a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighter died while working “a fire at the Manayunk Cotton Mill, on Venice Island & Robeson Street. Within minutes the 9-story building was fully involved. He was killed instantly when he was buried under a falling wall.”

On 12/2/1925 a Chicago, Illinois firefighter died while fighting “a fire in the basement of the Atlantic Electric Fixture and Radio Company at 2362 Milwaukee Avenue. He was electrocuted when he accidentally touched a live wire.”

On 12/2/1930 two Milwaukee, Wisconsin firefighters were killed “when a floor collapsed at the Siegel Bag Company fire at 8th and Walnut.”

On 12/2/1934 three Memphis, Tennessee firefighters died while fighting “a fire at the Johnson Motor Company, 333-37 Monroe Avenue around 4:25 a.m. All three men were killed when a wall collapsed following an explosion.”

On 12/2/1939 a Framingham, Massachusetts firefighter “died from smoke inhalation after being trapped during a fire.”

On 12/2/1952 an Idaho Falls, Idaho firefighter “died after he was overcome by smoke in the basement of Spencer Grocery at North Boulevard and May Street.”

On 12/2/1972 an Orlando, Florida firefighter died “after being caught in a collapse while operating at a fire at 52 West Central Blvd. Six other firefighters were injured and suffered various cuts and abrasions. A second firefighter, who also was on the ladder, was severely injured. Both men were on the parapet, right at the top of the ladder when the walls collapsed, causing both to be buried.”

On 12/2/1863 the Vosburg’s wire factory, six other large buildings, and four tenement houses on 7th Avenue between 29th to 30th Streets New York, New York were destroyed by fire, leaving several families homeless, the total loss is estimated at $100,000, mostly insured.

On 12/2/1913 fire raced through the Arcadia Lodging House located at 1202 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts killing twenty-eight and injuring twenty despite the heroic efforts of the BFD.

On 12/2/2013 an explosion and fire at Hydrodec’s Canton, Ohio Refinery caused $12.5 million in damage ($500,000 building and losses to its contents were $12 million) in a one-story, 8,000-square-foot oil reprocessing plant.

On 12/2/2012 the Sasago Tunnel collapse killed nine. The tunnel runs for 3.9 miles along the Chuo Expressway connecting Tokyo with Nagoya in the Chubu region of Japan.