FIREFIGHTER HISTORY 2/21

2/21/1897 a Hartford, CT firefighter “died of the injuries he sustained while operating at Box 26.”

2/21/1899 a Milwaukee, Wisconsin firefighter died from injuries he received at the Wisconsin Chair Company fire in Port Washington, WI. On 2/19/1899 at 9:15 p.m. a fire was “discovered in the veneering works of the Wisconsin Chair Company’s factory and before morning the entire plant of that corporation and also six entire blocks of business houses and residences were a mass of smoldering ruins. The burned district extends from Grand Avenue on the south to Pier Street on the north, and from Franklin Street east to the lake. The brick buildings on the east side of Franklin Street were saved, and one or two dwellings in the northern portion of the fire swept district. Heroic efforts on the part of our firefighters and citizens had so far gotten the fire under control that at 10:30 o’clock it was thought the flames would be confined to the block bounded by Main, Franklin Street, Grand Avenue, and the harbor, but at that moment the fire walls of the four-story veneering works, collapsed, burying and crushing the big force pumps nearby from which the water supply was had. About the same time our little steam engine became disabled by overstraining, and our people were helpless. When this fact was realized the workers became paralyzed. Despair seized upon everybody and a scene of wild disorder and confusion ensued. There was a mad rush for the houses in the threatened district, and soon the streets were thronged with excited people bearing in their arms furniture, articles of wearing apparel, household goods of every description, etc. Everywhere in the streets and on sidewalks, in yards and alleys, in houses and barns outside the threatened district, household goods were promiscuously strewed about. Every kind of vehicle was pressed into service and goods hurriedly conveyed to a safe spot. For six hours it seemed as though the entire city was doomed to destruction and no one within a half dozen blocks surrounding hesitated to pack up their valuables and move out… One of the saddest incidents of the whole fire was the accidents that befell two firefighters. Both of Engine Company 4, were working among the ruins at 3:30 o’clock when a chimney collapsed and fell on the company which was pouring water on the fire. The flames in that vicinity had been almost entirely subdued and the collapse came so suddenly that the fire fighters could not get away. Three firefighters were caught in the debris. One firefighter’s leg was severely bruised, but he was able to go home. Two firefighters were removed to the Wilson House. It was found that one of the firefighter’s spine was injured, but his condition was not regarded as serious. However, the third firefighter was not so fortunate. His spine was broken just below the base of the head and his body below his neck paralyzed… He had little or no chance of recovery. When the bricks from the chimney fell, he was struck just below the neck, injuring the spine in a manner which the physicians stated must prove fatal, as the spinal cord was partially severed. In addition to this injury, he suffered with a number of bruises about the body. Death relieved the brave fellow from his sufferings at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday (2/21/1899) morning. He was conscious up to a short time previous to his death and suffered greatly… The losses include twenty business concerns and twenty-seven homes, that number of families being made homeless. The heaviest loss of course falls on the chair factory. In addition to all its brick buildings, machinery and stock, it loses 800,000 feet of hardwood lumber which when once on fire furnished excellent fuel. The unused foundry building of the Western Malleable & Gray Iron Co., was partly stored with chairs belonging to the chair company and these were all burned. In all the other houses burned, the contents were as a rule saved because other occupants had plenty of time to take out their household goods. The chair company carried 90 percent insurance, so it is stated and is therefore well protected, but the foundry was only insured for $4,500, while all the smaller buildings destroyed were insured for about one-half their value. The owners therefore will suffer considerably by the fire losses.”

2/21/1917 a Memphis, TN firefighter “died while operating at a fire involving several dwellings, as a result of smoke inhalation. He was assigned to Truck 3. A small grass fire started at 1237 Azalia and quickly spread to other homes on Azalia and on College Street. He collapsed while directing his company. He had recently returned to duty after an illness of pneumonia and it was believed that the weakened condition of his lungs contributed to his death.”

2/21/1932 a Portland, ME firefighter “died in the performance of his duties, while operating at a two alarm fire in a commercial building.”

2/21/1936 a Baltimore, MD firefighter died while fighting a fire on the Norwegian freighter Gisla loaded with 5,000 tons of highly flammable and explosive nitrate. “The six-alarm fire burned out of control for three hours as numerous explosions rocked the vessel. While a crew of firefighters where they directed a stream of water into a hold of the burning ship. Suddenly, an explosion engulfed the men in clouds of nitrate fumes and smoke, forcing them to retreat to safety on shore. As a firefighter made sure he was the last man off the ship, he heard a scream. As he groped through the heavy smoke, he fell over the body of a firefighter and helped him sit up, which saved his life. As the smoke cleared for just a minute, another firefighter was found lying face down, unconscious, in a pool of water. He was carried to shore where he was found to be dead. Apparently, a powerful bow gun of one of the fireboats operating there struck the two men. It took firefighters 16 hours to bring the fire under control.”

2/21/1971 a Forest River, IL firefighter died while fighting a fire at the Wheel Inn dance hall and restaurant, at 39 S Milwaukee Ave, Wheeling Illinois. He “responded to the fire with the Forest River Fire Department, one of several mutual aid departments called to the incident. During the fire, he suffered smoke inhalation, but he returned to active firefighting duties after a short break. Following the fire, he collapsed while rolling up fire hose, and died from a heart attack.”

2/21/2006 two Lawrence County, Alabama firefighters died at a working commercial structure fire. Just before 10:00 p.m., “they were operating under mop-up operations manning a hose at the outside front of the building, putting water on hot spots inside when the wall unexpectedly collapsed, trapping three firefighters. One firefighter was removed from the debris alive; two were pronounced dead at the scene.”

2/21/1985 the NY Bronze Powders Company 500,000-square-foot warehouse was destroyed by fire and one was killed in Elizabeth, NJ when “four men were working in a building where the nitrocellulose was packaged when a 55-gallon drum of the material exploded.” Nitrocellulose is a material used in smokeless gunpowder and in various lacquers and polishes. “Fireballs rose 300 feet into the night sky and tens of thousands of exploding aerosol cans of paint whizzed through the smoke and flames at the eastern end of the warehouse.”

2/21/2015 a three-alarm fire around 4:10 p.m. in San Francisco’s Castro District burned two buildings and displaced a dozen people started in a three-story two-unit apartment building.

2/21/1971 Dunmore, PA Marywood College fire at the 71-year-old four-story brick building injured nine.

2/21/1922 a number of buildings in the town of Brownsville, PA were destroyed by fire that started around 5:00 a.m. in an upper floor of the Sharpnack & Connelly building. This was the second fire in the same location within a few hours.

2/21/1914 Hartford, CT the Union Station the New Haven Railroad train depot was destroyed by fire, all train service was interrupted.

2/21/1903 two blocks of Main Street were destroyed in Barre, VT by fire that started in the basement of the new Currier Block on Main Street with “the thermometer standing at 16 degrees below zero.”

2/21/1900 Vergennes, VT Manufacturing Co was destroyed by fire.

2/21/1870 near Cairo, IL and about fifty miles above Memphis the Steamer Emma No. 3 burned on a snag in the river leaving “many dead.”