FIREFIGHTER HISTORY 2/1

On 2/1/1985 the Vicstar Electronics Store fire killed three Chicago, Illinois firefighters. “Early in the morning, a two-story building at 2847 North Milwaukee Avenue was destroyed by fire. Three firefighters perished while fighting the blaze. The building’s first floor housed Vicstar Electronics, a consumer electronics store. Jang Han Bae, one of Vicstar’s owners, was convicted of two counts of arson and three counts of murder in Illinois state court… Bae came to the United States from Korea in 1975. Bae and another Korean, Ho Suo Lee, opened Vicstar in 1982 at a location on North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, and in 1983 they moved the business to the building on North Milwaukee Avenue. In 1983, Vicstar lost money. In 1984, Vicstar made less than $30,000 profit. Bae and Lee decided to set the building on fire and use the proceeds from Vicstar’s $250,000 insurance policy to pay their creditors. In a confession he gave to police several hours after the fire, Bae detailed the arson scheme and his activities the night before and the morning of the fire. In mid-January, Lee asked another Korean man named Suk Kim if he would set the fire. Kim said he would; Lee and Bae agreed to pay Kim at least $3,000. They paid Kim $3,000 in cash, the money coming from two days’ cash receipts from Vicstar… The fire had devastating consequences. A family living in the second-floor apartment above Vicstar barely managed to escape death and injury by jumping to the roof of an adjacent building; the only possessions they were able to save were the clothes on their backs. Four Chicago firefighters were not so lucky. The four had climbed to the building’s roof to cut a hole to vent hot gasses so that other firefighters could fight the fire from within the building. While the firefighters were on the roof, the roof collapsed. Three of the firefighters were plunged into the inferno below and burned to death. The fourth managed to escape falling into the building by jumping up and grabbing onto “something” (exactly what, he was not sure). However, the lower portion of his body was on fire and a fireball billowing up engulfed his face. (The heat was so intense it melted his helmet to his head.) He eventually made it to the coping of the roof and then rolled onto an adjacent roof, where he kept rolling until he extinguished the flames on his body. Although he lived, he was badly burned and disfigured and faced years of painful skin grafts. At trial, there was no dispute that arson caused the fire. Investigators at the scene found plastic bottles containing isopropyl alcohol. The fire started when the bottles containing the alcohol were ignited.”

On 2/1/1887 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died as a result of smoke inhalation and burns sustained while operating at a fire on January 22nd.”

On 2/1/1906 two San Francisco, California firefighters “died from asphyxiation, after operating at the U.S. Meade, Foot of Folsom, fire on January 31, 1906.”

On 2/1/1939 a Berkeley, California firefighter “died following his heroic rescue of three young children from the smoke-filled home of Mr. and Mrs. George G. Rogers, 1837 Rose Street. The firefighter lived across the street from the Rogers’ home. He was off duty and at home, when “the fire tapper in the house sounded” that was a device to alert off-duty staff that there was an alarm. He heard on his shortwave radio that the call came from his block. Rushing outside, the firefighter found his neighbors on the street and smoke pouring out of their front door. Entering the house, he rescued their 4-year-old granddaughter and her siblings, twin babies, just as on-duty firefighters arrived. He then grabbed a hose and led the effort to put out the fire in a bedroom. Inspecting the attic, he died of an apparent heart attack.”

On 2/1/1946 a Baltimore, Maryland firefighter died at a bowling alley fire. “After arriving at a still alarm, the members of Engine 42 found heavy smoke billowing from a bowling alley. The box alarm was struck, and the firefighters went to work stretching a line into the rear of the building, where the fire was showing. Just as they were ready to open the nozzle on the flames, a thunderous explosion occurred, followed by a mass of flames. As one of the men was running for his life, he noticed a firefighter was missing. He tried to go back for him but was seriously burned and collapsed necessitating his rescue. The six-alarm fire rapidly spread throughout the bowling alley and extended to a row of stores before being brought under control.”

On 2/1/1993 a New London, Connecticut firefighter “went into cardiac arrest while pulling hose during fire suppression. A live electric wire fell near him, a court later ruled that the death was not due to electrocution, but a pre-existing heart condition that lead to the fatal heart attack.”

On 2/1/1999 a massive explosion and fire destroyed the power station at Ford Motor Company’s Rouge River complex in Dearborn, Michigan, that killed at least one and injured thirty others. The explosion occurred shortly after 1:00 p.m. in the boiler at the powerhouse which generates electricity for the 1,200-acre industrial complex.

On 2/1/1974 the Joelma Building in São Paulo, Brazil fire in the upper stories of a 25-floor skyscraper bank building killed 189, and more than 300 people were injured after an air conditioner unit on the twelfth floor overheated starting a fire. Within 20 minutes the entire building was engulfed in flames because of highly flammable materials used in construction.

On 2/1/1907 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania ten downtown buildings were destroyed or damaged by a fire that started from an explosion in a hat store in the Opera House block at 2:00 p.m.

On 2/1/1905 a Rib Lake, Wisconsin house fire killed two children.

On 2/1/1904 an explosion at the Maple Hill Colliery (coal mine) in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania killed five when powder in a steel cage being hoisted exploded.

On 2/1/1876 three separate fires plague the town of Quincy, Illinois. The first at 10:00 a.m. in the Golden Gate Building, just south of the courthouse started from the chimney situated in the rear of the building. At noon the second fire in a double-frame dwelling house 178 and 180 North Sixth Street started from a defective flue in the kitchen chimney. A third fire later that afternoon started in the basement of the dry goods store.

On 2/1/2003 the Space Shuttle Columbia, the first shuttle in the orbital fleet was destroyed during re-entry over Texas.