On 3/31/1954 the Cleveland Hill School explosion and fire killed fifteen, and injured nineteen sixth-grade students, in Cheektowaga, New York a heavily populated Buffalo suburb. The fire flashed through the eight-classroom 100-foot-long wood-frame annex building just before noon recess. “The cause of the fire was never determined but it may have been caused by a defective furnace that had been leaking fumes. According to newspaper reports after the fire, the boiler had previously emitted gas fumes and was known to be faulty. Many of the victims perished because they were unable to open the windows that were either locked or stuck. There was a movement to introduce building codes that prohibited wood-frame buildings from housing schools. Other changes include fire drills, rules regarding window type and size, school construction methods, and school communications with fire departments.” “After the Cleveland Hill fire, new school safety measures were imposed across the state and the nation. Wooden buildings were outlawed, large windows were mandated as part of a sweeping update of school building codes, and a strict program of compulsory fire drills was put in place. Other grim lessons were learned: how the fire spread, how to treat a sudden, massive influx of burn victims.”
On 3/31/1902 the Burwell, Nebraska schoolhouse was destroyed by fire. “This occurrence hastened the end of the hand-pump-and-bucket-brigade era and hurried the citizens into constructing a modem water system and related public utilities.”
On 3/31/1941 a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighter died of smoke inhalation at the Waste Company fire at 836 S. Swanson. “While operating at a single-alarm fire involving a warehouse filled with bales of rags and jute, he became severely overcome by smoke and was rushed to the hospital, where he died about a half-hour later.”
On 3/31/1943 a Cleveland, Ohio firefighter collapsed and died at a fire at the Oster Manufacturing Company 2057 East 61st Street.
On 3/31/1945 a Staten Island, New York (FDNY) firefighter was killed when he came in contact with a 2200-volt power line that had fallen during the storm.
On 3/31/1951 an Arlington, Texas firefighter “died at 7:45 p.m. while working at the scene of a fire in a residential duplex, the ceiling gave way under all the weight from water and collapsed on him. He was taken out of the home and tended to by first aid firefighters. He was feeling good, but later after returning to the station, he took a turn for the worst. He passed away as he would have liked, helping to save the property of others while doing service to his fellow man.”
On 3/31/1986 a Warren, Arkansas firefighter died of the injuries he sustained while operating at a structure fire.
On 3/31/2000 a Layton, Utah firefighter died while operating at a residential fire. “Upon arrival, the fire department reported a working fire with flames and smoke visible from the garage. The captain ordered firefighters to extinguish the fire in the garage, and the fire was knocked down within 5 minutes of their arrival on the scene. The captain instructed two firefighters to enter the structure with a hoseline to search for victims, fire extension, and to begin to ventilate the structure. The firefighters were met with dark smoke but no visible flame when they entered the structure. They began a left-hand search and proceeded to the second floor of the structure. The second floor contained bedrooms and was directly above the garage. A third firefighter joined the firefighters on the second floor by following the hoseline. As the firefighters searched the bedrooms, there was a rapid buildup of heat. A red glow was visible at the bottom of the stairs, cutting off the team’s escape route. The decision was made to follow the hoseline back out of the structure since the firefighters were unsure about the presence of windows in the bedrooms and the stairway was small. As the firefighters emerged from the house, one failed to exit. The incident commander ordered an accountability report and it was discovered that a firefighter was missing. The second crew of firefighters entered the residence through the front door but could not climb the stairs because they appeared to be collapsed and were heavily involved in the fire. The incident commander ordered a ladder raised to provide firefighters with access to a roof area that led to the bedroom windows. Two firefighters entered the second floor of the structure and searched two bedrooms. A sound believed to be a personal alert safety system (PASS) device was located but turned out to be a smoke alarm. The firefighters saw a light in the bedroom across the hall and found that it was a flashlight that was carried by the missing firefighter. The firefighter was found on his knees on the floor with his facepiece removed. His PASS device was in the “off” position, the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinder empty, and his protective hood was found over his mouth and nose, most likely in an attempt to filter the air to breathe.”
On 3/31/1930 a coal mine explosion and fire near Kettle Island, Kentucky killed sixteen at the Pioneer Coal Company
On 3/31/1902 the Nelson Mine gas explosion in Dayton, Tennessee killed twenty-two and ignited the dry coal dust around 4:45 p.m.
On 3/31/1900 the Columbia Theater in Chicago, Illinois, one of the oldest and most popular playhouses, was destroyed by a fire that was “discovered in the laundry of the Iroquois Club, which occupied apartments on the sixth floor of the building.”
On 3/31/1894 the Suncook, New Hampshire conflagration started, thirty-eight families were homeless, and three large blocks were ruined.
On 3/31/1894 Borden, Indiana was nearly wiped out by a fire that started in a flour mill at 3:00 a.m. fanned by a strong wind, and spread through the entire business portion of the town and to about a dozen residences. “Six stores and eighteen dwellings were destroyed, and several other houses were badly damaged.”
On 3/31/1894 the Star-Clipper building in Traer, Iowa, built-in 1880, a business building was destroyed by fire around 5:00 a.m.
On 3/31/1879 the Fairchild Building in Madison, Wisconsin was destroyed by fire shortly after 1:00 p.m. that appears to have started on the “third and upper story of the great stone building at the southwest corner of Main and Pinckney Streets.”
On 3/31/1983 an earthquake in Colombia killed 5,000 people