2/14/1962 two Chicago FD firefighters (chiefs) died at an apartment building fire on E. 70th Street. Chief Robert J. O’Brien, head of the fire prevention bureau, and Battalion Chief Thomas A. Hoff were killed when the fire-weakened building collapsed. “A fire was reported in the basement of the apartment building shortly after 11:00 a.m. Firefighters responded to the scene and successfully extinguished most of the flames. At approximately 12:35 p.m., while firefighters were searching the apartments for trapped victims, the roof of the building began to sag, and the west wall started to lean inward. Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn ordered all firefighters to evacuate the building, but the roof caved in before all of the firefighters could escape.” The story of Thomas Hoff, Bob, and his older brother Ray, served as the basis for the movie “Backdraft”
2/14/1958 six Manhattan, NY, firefighters died at the Wooster Street Collapse, Box 55-334, 137-9 Wooster Street, between West Houston and Prince Street. “Two-FDNY firefighters venting the roof, and four member of Fire Patrol # 1 placing salvage covers were buried alive when all floors and the roof suddenly collapsed in a burning six-story, 80×100 foot, heavy timber construction, loft building in “Hells’ hundred acres” lower Manhattan. The fire occurred at 10:15 p.m. in a baled paper storage building. The fire started on the first floor and traveled up the shaft to the top floor. Floors 2 to 6 and the roof collapsed in the one-hundred-year-old, commercial storage building that was constructed with cast iron columns on the lower floors supporting heavy timber, wood columns and wood girders on the upper floors. The age of the building, overloaded floors (heavy storage of large rolled paper), fire destruction, water weight from hose streams, failure of cast iron columns contributed to the collapse.
“Hells Hundred Acres: There is an area in lower Manhattan where so many firefighters have been killed battling fires it was named Hell’s Hundred Acres. This area contains century old buildings built around the time of the civil war. Rag storage, baled goods, paper rolls and heavy machinery overloaded the sagging floors of these hundred-year-old storage buildings. Creaking wooden stairs lead down to old stone walled sub cellars. During fires, water filled cellars drown firefighters; backdraft explosions blow firefighters out windows. Hells Hundred Acres is an area bounded by Chamber Street on the south, the Bowery on the east, West Broadway on the west and West 8th Street on the north. Today, this area has become a fashionable art district; the rag storage buildings have been replaced with wealthy artist residents. Many of the buildings are now renovated and sprinklered. But the buildings are the same deadly, century old, and structures. The wood timber floors rotting, brick mortar turning to sand, rusted old, iron fire escapes collapsing and cast-iron columns ready to shatter and cave in during a fire.”
2/14/1995 three Pittsburgh, PA firefighters died from asphyxiation when they ran out of air while operating a hose line in the basement, and three other firefighters were injured at the Bricelyn Street fire after becoming separated from other crews and the stairwell collapsed. “Investigations by the City of Pittsburgh and others after the fire indicated that problems with incident command and accountability were key factors contributing to the firefighters’ deaths. Other factors included a possible lack of crew integrity and a failure of the crew to take emergency survival actions that may have helped them escape. All of the deceased firefighters were wearing PASS devices that were found in the “off” position. The fire was incendiary, and a suspect was arrested.”
2/14/2000 Houston, TX two firefighters lost their lives in a McDonald’s restaurant arson fire at 12602 Bissonnet. The fire was reported at 4:30 a.m. Engine 76 was the first fire fighting unit on the scene 8 minutes later and reported 6-foot flames visible from the roof. The flames appeared as if they might be venting from an exhaust fan, possibly indicating a grease fire. The captain ordered his firefighters to advance an attack line into the interior of the structure for fire control. No fire was visible in the interior of the restaurant. The firefighters from Engine 76 were joined by other firefighters who also advanced attack lines to the interior. At 4:52 a.m., the incident commander ordered all firefighters out of the building in order to transition to a defensive attack mode. The flames visible from the roof had grown to 30 feet in height, and fire had become visible in the kitchen area of the restaurant. Moments later, the captain from Engine 76 concluded that his firefighters were missing and notified the incident commander. A second alarm was requested at 5:02 a.m. and rescue attempts were begun. A number of rescue attempts were made. At 5:27 a.m., the incident commander struck a third alarm. Shortly thereafter, a ladder company opened the rear door of the restaurant and made access to the back of the kitchen area. A PASS device had been heard alarming in the kitchen area, and a firefighter was able to see a downed firefighter as he looked into the back door. A firefighter was discovered with his facepiece in-place, his regulator not connected to the facepiece, and with his SCBA partially removed and entangled in wires. He was removed, treated at the scene, in the ambulance, and at the hospital. Despite these efforts, he was pronounced dead at the hospital. Given the amount of time that had passed and the likelihood that a second firefighter was buried in debris, the search effort transitioned into a recovery mode. The missing firefighter was found at approximately 7:13 a.m. within 6 feet of the rear door of the restaurant. She was entangled in wires and a pair of wire cutters were found near her body. She was wearing an SCBA but the status of her facepiece and regulator could not be determined. Both firefighters died of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation. The fire was intentionally set by a group of juveniles attempting to conceal a burglary attempt. Four individuals were convicted of crimes with sentences ranging from 2 to 35 years.”
2/14/1908 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “drowned at a three-alarm fire in a five-story brick loft building, when he walked through a trapdoor in the cellar and fell into the flooded sub-cellar.”
2/14/1909 a Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter died of injuries he received while working at a fire at the Standard Oil Company’s Pratt Oil Works plant when a wall had collapsed. He and four other firefighters were buried by the debris; he had been hit with a thick stone cornice which was mounted on the upper edge of the wall. The heavy stone, broke his back, and both legs. The other four firefighters were seriously injured but survived. “The complex was located on Kent Avenue from North 12th Street to Newtown Creek and along the East River. The fire building was two-stories high and measured 75 feet wide by 100 feet along the water with a 75 by 300-foot building and pier abutting it going into the East River. This building was used to pack cans of oil, naphtha and benzene, that were placed in cardboard boxes and shipped.”
2/14/1909 a Lockport, New York firefighter while operating at the fire was killed when he was caught under a collapsing stone wall. “A fire started in the boiler room of a factory and spread to the elevator shaft, rapidly sent flames throughout all six floors of the doomed factory. Poor water pressure greatly hampered firefighters, who could do little more than save the exposures.”
2/14/1921 a Houston, Texas firefighter died, while operating at a building fire just north of downtown on Baker Street. “When the fire department arrived at the Texas Lamp and Oil Company, the large building was fully engulfed with flames. A second alarm was immediately sounded, and soon after that; a third alarm was requested. The lack of water supply in the area prompted the fire crews to drag hose line through a narrow alley way to reach the burning building. The victim, along with the other crew members, entered the alley way with two hose lines in order to gain access to the burning building. Meanwhile, another crew had opened a door on the other side of the building. This caused a backdraft and three barrels of denatured alcohol to explode, blowing out the wall bordering the alley trapping eight firefighters. The falling wall did not kill the victim; however, the heavy lamp oil smoke suffocated him. The cause of this fire that caused one hundred thousand dollars-worth of damage to three business was faulty electrical wiring.”
2/14/1930 a Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter died of smoke inhalation while operating at a fire in an unoccupied candy stand at Coney Island.
2/14/1934 a El Paso, TX firefighter died from burn injuries he received during a flashover at the Old American Furniture Company warehouse fire. The building nearly burned to the ground was located across the street from Fire Station 9. He along with two other firefighters, were caught in a flashover. “Since then, firefighters who have worked at Station 9 speak of strange things that happen in the station. One of the oddest is that usually right before a big fire in the area occurs, the firefighters are signaled that it is coming. Usually the bay door rolls up on its own or the lights will come on just before the alarm comes in from the dispatch center.”
2/14/1951 a Lancaster, PA firefighter “died in the hospital as a result of injuries sustained November 21st, 1950, when he and another fireman were caught under a collapsing wall while operating at a general-alarm music hall fire.”
2/14/2015 Gogama, Ontario, 29 cars of a Canadian National oil train derail and a fire engulfs seven cars. No injuries are reported.
2/14/2014 a predawn fire in a north Minneapolis, MN in a102-year-old, two-plus story duplex killed five, including three children, and injured several others, of the fifteen residents. The fire is believed to have started on the second floor shortly after 5:00 a.m. “City records show an inspection report last summer called for repairs to smoke detectors in the unit, among other violations.”
2/14/2014 an eighth-floor apartment fire killed three young sisters, ages 8, 11 and 18, in Sevran, a northeastern suburb of Paris, France.
2/14/2010 a three-story apartment building fire in Cicero a suburban Chicago, IL left seven people dead including a newborn, a 3-year-old and four teenagers in the early morning around 6:30 a.m. “Two other buildings were damaged, including an adjacent house.”
2/14/2004 a collapse of sports and entertainment complex “Transvaal Park” (in the area Yasenevo) in the south-west of Moscow around 7:15 p.m. killed twenty-eight, including eight children, and injured 193 of the 400 people in the building.
2/14/1981 Stardust Cabaret discotheque fire killed forty-four and injured 214 of the about 841 people who were attending a disco night and a trade union function at the club in Dublin, Ireland. The fire started on a balcony outside the building, staff failed attempts to extinguish the fire and tried to contain it by closing the door. The guests in the nightclub were not informed, nor was an alarm sounded. The fire quickly spread into the main area of the club, immediately filling the room to with thick black smoke.
2/14/1953 Plains, TX a fire in a warehouse containing dynamite exploded that killed one, injured several, and heavily damaged nearby structures.
2/14/1945 the high school and all the contents in Haileybury, ON were destroyed by fire.
2/14/1918 an orphanage fire killed fifty-three children in Montreal, QB that started shortly after 8:00 p.m. on the fifth or top story of the west wing of the Grey Nunnery, on Guy and Dorchester Streets. The top floor was used as a dormitory for infants; the fire started near the tower, most likely from the electric wiring.
1909 Sea Breeze, FL the Clarendon Hotel was destroyed by fire; all 215 guests were able to escape. The fire originated in the coal bins under the kitchen around 5:30 a.m.
2/14/1898 forty were killed in Lynn Canal, AK when the Steamer Clara Nevada burned.
2/14/1890 Toronto (ON) the University was destroyed by fire just before 2,000 guests were scheduled to arrive for the annual conversazione. “The building was not supplied with enough gas jets so that on any special occasion it was necessary to light up with lamps. Two men were engaged in carrying upstairs six lighted lamps to be put in chandeliers, when the man on the lower end, fearing the lamps might fall let go his hold. The lamps fell and broke and the oil spread all over the stairs and down on the already heavily oiled floor.”