FIREFIGHTER HISTORY 12/6

On 12/6/1917 the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, exploded in Halifax harbor in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia 20 minutes after a collision with the Norwegian vessel Imo. The explosion and fire killed 1,654, including nine firefighters, and injured 9,000 mostly spectators witnessing the spectacular ship fire. The Mont Blanc was carrying 10 tons of gun cotton, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline, 200 tons of TNT (trinitrotoluene), and 2,300 tons of picric acid. The shock wave was felt 50 miles away. “Around 8:00 a.m. the Norwegian ship carrying relief supplies to Belgium, the Steam Ship (SS) Imo left its mooring in Bedford Basin and headed for the open sea. At about the same time, the French ship SS Mont-Blanc was heading up the harbor to moor, awaiting a convoy to accompany her across the Atlantic. A convoy was essential; this small, barely seaworthy vessel was carrying a full cargo of explosives…  Perhaps, the ships might have passed without incident, but SS Imo signaled “full speed astern.” So, did SS Mont-Blanc, but it was too late. Reversing her engines caused SS Imo’s bow to swing right, and it struck SS Mont-Blanc, missing the TNT, but striking the picric acid stored directly beneath the drums of benzol on deck. The impact cut a wedge in SS Mont Blanc’s side and struck deadly sparks. The crew of SS Mont Blanc, aware of their cargo, immediately took to the lifeboats, screaming warnings that no one heeded. They rowed for Dartmouth, leaving the now furiously burning ship to drift towards Halifax, propelled in that direction by SS Imo’s impact. The SS Mont Blanc drifted by a Halifax pier, brushing it and setting it ablaze. Members of the Halifax Fire Department responded quickly and were positioning their engine up to the nearest hydrant when SS Mont Blanc disintegrated in a blinding white flash, creating the biggest man-made explosion before the nuclear age. It was 9:05 a.m.”

On 12/6/1938 Walt Disney’s mother, Flora Call Disney (April 22, 1868 – December 6, 1938) died of asphyxiation caused by the carbon monoxide (CO) fumes from a faulty gas furnace, less than a month after moving into a new home in North Hollywood, near the Disney studios in Burbank, California. Walt and Roy presented their parents with the home after the success of their film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Flora had complained to Walt and Roy about problems in her new home. The studio repairmen did not adequately fix the problem. This incident plagued Walt with grief for the rest of his life.

On 12/6/1899 a Winsted, Connecticut firefighter “died four months after he inhaled flames and smoke while fighting an ice-house fire.”

On 12/6/1906 the Chi Psi fraternity house at 810 University Ave, known as “The Cornell Fire”, caused the death of four undergraduate students and three Ithaca, New York firefighters. The fire caused a wall to collapse and killed the three firefighters. “Word of the deaths spread via telegraph and shocked the country. President Teddy Roosevelt sent his condolences when he heard of the tragic loss.”

On 12/6/1920 a Boston, Massachusetts firefighter “died from injuries received on December 1, 1920. (The fire is believed to have occurred at 1193 Blue Hill Avenue, Mattapan, Box 3526, at 0457 hours). He suffered injuries from the inhalation of smoke, heat, and gases. He developed pneumonia and died.”

On 12/6/1925 a Buffalo, New York firefighter “died as a result of injuries he sustained the previous day when he and a firefighter were caught under a collapsing wall while operating a line from a ladder at a two-story factory fire. He was killed instantly in the collapse.”

On 12/6/1952 a Bridgeport, Connecticut firefighter died from trauma caused by a roof collapse.

On 12/6/1953 a Queens, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died as a result of his injuries sustained while operating at a single-alarm fire at 139-42 Hillside Avenue on November 24th.”

On 12/6/1987 a Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter died “while venting the roof during a fire in an occupied four-story tenement, the firefighter suffered a massive heart attack and fell unconscious. All advanced life support (ALS) efforts by paramedics to revive him at the scene failed and they rushed him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. It had been the fourth fire of the night for Ladder 123 and the firefighter had worked the roof at each fire, in addition to pulling people out of one of the blazes. A civilian was also killed at the fire when she fell from a fourth-floor window after a cable TV wire snapped that she was hanging onto.

On 12/6/1989 a Burr Ridge, Illinois firefighter died while fighting a house fire. “The fire was discovered shortly after 4:30 p.m. More than fifty firefighters from twelve different departments responded to the blaze at the vacant, twelve-room house that was under renovation. Firefighters initially attacked the fire from outside the house and he was among the first firefighters to enter the burning structure. The firefighters entered through the front of the house but were almost immediately called back when they discovered that the basement was on fire and noticed that the floor was starting to buckle. Two firefighters were backing out of the front entrance of the house when the floor suddenly collapsed beneath them. One firefighter was able to grab hold of some of the remaining floor joists and pull himself clear, but the other firefighter fell into the burning basement. Firefighters immediately placed a ladder down the hole and aimed two hoses into the basement. Two firefighters climbed into the burning basement in an attempt to locate the missing firefighter, but the heat and smoke were too intense. A second search attempt was more successful, as firefighters found him lying face down on the steps leading out of the basement, with no air left in his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). He was rushed to La Grange Memorial Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival at about 5:45 p.m.”

On 12/6/2006 the Falk Corporation explosion and fire killed three and injured forty-six of the 700 workers in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The explosion may have started in a large propane tank. “The fiery blast at the factory flipped cars, hurled debris into the air, and forced the evacuation of dozens of workers at the plant, which makes large industrial gears and couplings. Burning rubble was spread over several blocks.” As many as 120 firefighters responded to the fire, along with hazardous materials teams. The flames were largely extinguished within three hours.

On 12/6/1985 around 3:56 p.m., a natural gas explosion occurred at the River Restaurant in Derby, Connecticut that killed six, injured twelve people, and destroyed the building housing the restaurant.  The gas main was most likely damaged during the refilling of a sewer excavation.  Before anyone was aware of the leak, the escaping natural gas accumulated in the basement and came in contact with an unknown ignition source.

On 12/6/1962 near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania the Robena Coal Mine explosion and fire entombed thirty-seven trapped 680 feet below the earth’s surface in the Frosty Run shaft of a U.S. Steel Corporation coal mine.

On 12/6/1907 near Monongha, West Virginia a coal mine explosion killed 361 when methane (also called “firedamp”) ignited and extended to the coal dust, one of the worst mining disasters in American history. In 1907 a total of 3,242 Americans died in mine accidents.

On 12/6/2006 a 6-story parking garage under construction, using cast-in-place simple reinforced concrete columns, cast-in-place reinforced and post-tensioned concrete beams, and cast-in-place post-tensioned concrete slabs, in downtown Jacksonville, Florida collapsed without warning killing one worker and injuring twenty more.