2/23/1991 One Meridian Plaza fire claimed the lives of three firefighters in Philadelphia, PA, one of the most significant high-rise fires in U.S. history. “Construction on the 492’ tower began in 1968, was completed in 1972 and approved for occupancy in 1973. Built at the corner of 15th Street and South Penn Square in Center City. The rectangular One Meridian Plaza was 243 feet (74 m) long and 92 feet (28 m) wide and contained 756,000 square feet (70,000 m). Of the 38 floors, 36 were occupiable and 2 were mechanical floors. The structure also had 3 underground levels. The building’s structure was composed of steel and concrete and the Facade was a granite curtain wall. There were two helipads on the roof. One Meridian Plaza’s eastern stairwell connected the building to the adjacent Girard Trust Building…The fire began on the 22nd floor and extended and destroyed 9 floors of the 38-story fire-resistive building. There were only three people in the building at the time, an engineer and two security guards. Workers had been refinishing woodwork in a vacant office earlier in the day and workers left a pile of rags soaked in linseed oil on the floor. The linseed oil oxidized and generated enough heat to ignite the rags which then set fire to other solvents nearby. Smoke detectors did not cover the entire floor and by the time the fire alarm went off the fire was already well established. After the fire alarm sounded in the building the engineer went up to the 22nd floor to investigate. When the elevator reached the 22nd floor the engineer found heavy smoke and heat which prevented him from reaching the elevator controls he needed to return to the lobby. The engineer escaped after radioing to a security guard in the lobby to recall the elevator using fire safety controls there. The second security guard was on the 30th floor when the alarm went off and used the stairwell to get to the ground floor. The first call came from someone on the street who saw smoke coming from the building about 8:27 p.m. Engine 43 was the first firefighting unit to arrive at the scene and reported seeing heavy smoke and flames in one of the windows. As firefighters started fighting the fire it had grown with flames breaking through windows and lapping up the side of the building. Firefighters began experiencing problems before they even reached the fire. The building had lost power after the heat from the blaze damaged electrical cables. The emergency generator never began producing electricity, and despite efforts to restore power the building was without electricity for the entirety of the event. This forced firefighters to work in darkness and without the aid of elevators. Firefighters were again hampered when it was discovered the pressure release valves on the standpipes were improperly adjusted when installed in the building. The Philadelphia Fire Department nozzles allowed 100 psi nozzle pressure while One Meridian Plaza’s pressure release valves were giving less than 60 psi discharge pressure, which was not sufficient to fight the fire. It was several hours into the fire before a technician who could adjust the valves arrived at the scene. The area around the building was cleared of pedestrians and firefighting personnel because of falling glass and debris. The falling debris was dangerous for firefighters because they often had to cross the perimeter around the building to enter and leave the high-rise. Hose lines stretched into the building were damaged by falling debris and one firefighter was struck by debris and seriously injured while tending to the lines. During the second hour of the fire it spread onto the 23rd and 24th floors. Heavy smoke was building up in the stairwells and a captain and two firefighters from Engine 11 were assigned to go to the top level to ventilate the stairwell. The three firefighters went up a center staircase from the 22nd floor and soon radioed that they were disoriented by heavy smoke on the 30th floor. There were attempts to direct the firefighters through the radio, and soon after the captain requested permission to break a window for ventilation, which was followed by a message that the captain was down. Permission to break the window was given and a search and rescue effort was initiated. Search teams were sent from the lower floors and searched the 30th floor, but did not find the missing firefighters. The teams then moved onto the upper levels. Using a search light the helicopter crew searched the exterior of the building and at 1:17 a.m. the helicopter spotted a broken window on the 28th floor located in an area that could not be seen from the street. At about 2:15 a.m. a rescue team was sent to the spot and found the three missing firefighters unconscious and out of air in their SCBAs. The firefighters were brought to a medical triage set up on the 20th floor. There were attempts at resuscitation but was unsuccessful and the firefighters were pronounced dead. As the fire was going into its sixth hour it had spread up to the 26th floor. With inadequate water pressure coming from the standpipes, firefighters stretched 5-inch hoses up the building’s stairwells to help fight the fire. While hoses were being taken up to the fire a sprinkler technician arrived to fix the water pressure. This improved the hose streams, but the fire had engulfed several floors and could not be contained with just hoses. By 7:00 a.m. almost eleven hours into the fire, firefighters were able to get control of the fire on the 22nd through 24th floors, but the fire was still out of control on the 25th and 26th floors and was spreading upwards. Structural damage observed inside the building by firefighters and consultations with a structural engineer led to fears that the damaged floors might collapse. At 7:00 a.m. an order to evacuate the building was issued and the building was completely evacuated by 7:30 a.m. After the evacuation, the only fire suppression efforts left were water streams being directed to the building from the neighboring Girard Trust Building and One Centre Square. The fire’s spread only stopped when it reached the 30th floor which was the first fire affected floor to have automatic sprinklers. Ten sprinklers extinguished the fire on the 30th floor and prevented continued spread. Contained by the automatic sprinklers and running out of fuel, the fire was declared under control at 3:01 p.m. The fire lasted over nineteen hours, destroyed eight floors, and killed three firefighters and injured twenty-four. Twelve alarms were called which brought fifty-one engine companies, fifteen ladder companies, eleven specialized units, and over three hundred firefighters. The fire caused an estimated US$100 million in direct property loss.”
2/23/1991 sixteen people died including nine firefighters and twenty-one people were hospitalized in a fire that “started when a television set that had not been turned off exploded” in the 3-star nine-story Leningrad Hotel, Saint-Petersburg, Russia around 9:00 a.m. The fire extended from the seventh through ninth floors.
2/23/1875 a Denver, CO firefighter collapsed and died after a fire at the Planters Hotel.
2/23/1899 a Chicago, IL firefighter died while “fighting a warehouse fire at Broadway and Center Avenue, Swift Warehouse # 7. He was crushed to death when a wall collapsed shortly after 3:00 a.m. The fire was discovered on the ground floor of the eight-story brick warehouse partially occupied by Swift & Company. Strong winds contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, and more than thirty-five fire companies responded to the 4-11 fire alarm.”
2/23/1927 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died of smoke inhalation while operating at a fire.”
2/23/1948 an Atlanta, GA firefighter “died as a result of the extreme exhaustion and exposure he sustained the previous day while working at a four-alarm fire at the Georgia State Hatcheries on Forsyth Street.”
2/23/1971 a Chicago, IL firefighter died “while fighting a residential fire at 4629 South Lake Park Avenue. The three-story brick apartment building was destroyed in the fire, leaving forty residents homeless, firefighters successfully rescued twenty-five people from the burning building.”
2/23/1972 two Los Angeles, CA firefighters “died of injuries suffered when a mezzanine collapsed at a commercial structure fire at the Union Manufacturing and Distributing Company, 241 West 116th Place. Four firefighters entered the building to attempt to cut off the advance of the fire, when a ceiling area with light storage collapsed. Two firefighters escaped, but two were apparently trapped in the debris of the falling ceiling. Intense heat repelled all rescue attempts. According to the Police Department, a burglary had been committed at the scene shortly before the fire broke out, and authorities believe that the fire was set to eradicate evidence of the crime.”
2/23/1973 three Palatine, IL firefighters “were killed while trying to extinguish a blaze at the Ben Franklin Variety Store in downtown Palatine, Illinois. The three went down to the store’s basement, they believed the fire was centered on the building’s furnace.”
2/23/1982 two Danbury, CT firefighters “died of the injuries they sustained after being caught in a collapse. They were searching a two-story commercial building that had been used as a fur factory at 178 Osborne Street when the second floor of the building collapsed. They had been told that a worker was still in the building. The employee they were searching for had already fled and made it out of the building.”
2/23/2012 five people were killed in South Plainfield NJ house fire.
2/22/1976 Galena Park, TX a grain elevator explosion and fire killed eight and twenty-five were injured at a waterfront grain elevator. A welder’s torch may have ignited grain dust. “The explosion and fires threatened briefly the numerous petroleum and chemical plants along the busy Houston Ship Channel.”
2/22/1966 Dunbar, PA five were killed and eight injured at the Keystone Fireworks Company plant explosion and fire while working in a building that produced “cherry bombs” mixing chemicals about 8:45 a.m.
2/23/1937 Douglas, AK conflagration, a flourishing boom town of 600 of the 700 residents erected crude temporary shelters started in the heart of downtown, presumably in a hardware store.
1932 the high school in Mt. Pleasant, IA was destroyed by fire.
2/23/1930 a fire started in a waste bandage chute at the five-story St. Joseph’s Hospital in Providence, RI and rapidly extended to the 4th and 5th floor, no one was injured in the fire. A total of 148 patients were relocated.
2/23/1930 Melrose, MA the Friend Brothers bean factory explosion severely injured a man while attempting to light the ovens.
2/23/1929 five were killed and five seriously injured in Glennville, GA, when a “dry” boiler exploded.
2/23/1929 a girl was killed in Jacksonville, IL during a college gymnasium fire. “The stately minuet being danced at a Washington day program in the Illinois Women’s college gymnasium last night turned in a frenzied rush for exits when fire broke out on the gymnasium stage.” “Damage to the gymnasium was slight and except for the frenzied rush there need have been no dead or injured, fire officials said.”
2/23/1912 the Wichita Coal & Mining Company near Lehigh, OK explosion and fire killed up to forty miners.
2/23/1900 Birmingham, AL Metropolitan Hotel was destroyed after a gasoline stove fire spread throughout the building and extended into the and the Hewett block; “a strong fire wall back of the Hewett building and the Metropolitan Hotel prevented the fire from extending any further in that direction.”
2/23/1897 Murray, KY a dynamite explosion at the gravel pit killed seven.
2/22/1880 Wellsboro, Pennsylvania 4 mercantile establishment were destroyed by fire that started from a chimney in the “wooden block from Crafton Street to Wright & Bailey’s new brick store.”