4/9/1866 the first meeting of National Board of Fire Underwriters occurred to work for fire prevention and loss control; in the 1960’s the National Board of Fire Underwriters merged into the American Insurance Association and in 1971 they form the Insurance Service Office (ISO)
4/9/1894 the Davidson Theatre fire in Milwaukee, WI left nine firefighters dead. “Soon after the department arrived a ladder run up from the hotel slipped and a firefighter was precipitated to the ground and killed. He was the first to die, but it seemed hardly ten minutes later that seven lives were suffered out in an instant. Flames were seen to shoot from the roof at the rear end of the theatre building at 4:20, and in an instant almost the entire roof was ablaze. The fire seemed to have enveloped the top of the building. The alarm of fire was quickly turned in and in a very short time several engines were at the scene, but the seat of the fire could not be easily located. The hotel located at 135 3rd Street. A portion of the building is occupied by the Davidson Hotel, and although the fire at first was not near any of the sleeping apartments, the guests were all aroused. Messengers were sent to awaken everybody and in a few minutes men, women and children came tumbling down the stairs arrayed for the most part in such clothes as they could seize in their hasty flight. There were probably fifty or seventy-five guests in the hotel, among them twelve dwarfs of the Lilliputian company which had been playing at the Davidson and several members of the Nellie McHenry company, playing at the Bijou. In a very short time every room in the house was empty. The elevators were kept busy in bringing down the guests who saw that there was plenty of time to get out, and waited to dress partially at least and collect some of their valuables. All were assured there was not the slightest danger as the fire was in the roof, over the theatre part of the building and the hotel building is also fireproof. Many soon went back to their rooms to collect their belongings, and the panic, so far as the guests was soon over. —It was almost impossible to get at the fire to fight it successfully. It seemed to have started just below the roof, under the wooden dome that surmounts it. A deluge of water was soon poured in when the fire seemed to be hottest, and at 5 o’clock the water was dropping through into the auditorium and it was feared that much damage would be done to the costly decorations and furnishings of handsome playhouse, one of the finest theatres in the United States. While two companies of the fire department were trying to reach the roof, there occurred the accident that caused the first firefighters death. He was climbing an aerial ladder and was up about forty feet. The wheels of the truck had not been properly blocked, and the ladder canted. He lost his hold, turned head downward and dropped with awful directness to the concrete sidewalk. He struck on his head his brains spattering against the wall. At the same time twenty men were feeling their way through the dense smoke to a narrow passage that led out between the ceiling of the auditorium and the roof. The fire was under control the Chief believed, and the only dense smoke that could be seen came from this spot. The men were well out over the ceiling when there was a crackling and a roar and twenty pipemen (firefighters) had gone through. The collapse of the ceiling was followed instantly by the fall of the roof. The burning timbers buried the men from view and flames fanned by the increased draught sprang up in all parts of the house. Every effort was then turned to rescue. Nothing could be done at first but to subdue the flames and floods of water had to be poured in. Great pools formed under the wreckage and one of the imprisoned firefighter, whose voice was first heard, was literally drowned as he lay with a timber across his breast. The wreckage was dragged away as fast as possible and the men who still showed signs of life hurried to the hospital. One died in the ambulance. Others were found to be so badly hurt that their recovery is impossible. While the firemen were dragging bodies from the basement of the theatre, thus suddenly transformed into a pit of death, flames gained headway in the upper hallways. They burned fiercely, being checked only when they reached the double walls that cut the hotel and theatre off from the remainder of the block. The interior of the theatre and that important part of the hotel which is in the same part of the building, were completely gutted. The loss will be not less than $250,000. All the scenery and costumes of the Lilliputian’s were on the stage of the theatre and were destroyed. The loss to the company is $20,000. The fire was believed to be started in the area of the kitchen, an area just above the theater.”
April 9, 1902 a Chicago, IL firefighter was fatally injured while fighting an industrial fire at 185 North Canal Street on April 8, 1902. “Five firefighters became stranded on a third-story fire escape while fighting the fire, and water streams from hoses at the street level were unsuccessful in pushing back the flames and smoke that trapped the firefighters, so the firefighter climbed up a thirty-foot ladder with a hose line. When he reached the top of the ladder, the firefighter was knocked off balance when he was struck by a stream of water from a hose down on the street. He fell thirty feet to the street below, and was transported to Cook County Hospital. He died from his injuries the next morning, April 9.
4/9/1943 a Chicago, IL firefighter died “while fighting an apartment fire at 1500 N. Lake Shore Drive. He was operating hand extinguishers when a backdraft explosion trapped him in a dead-end hallway. Two other firefighters were also injured in the explosion.”
4/9/1978 four Syracuse, New York firefighters died fighting a dormitory fire. “On arrival, firefighters found a working fire on the second floor of an occupied, three-story frame Victorian dwelling which served as a dormitory on a university campus. As an attack was begun on the two-alarm blaze, reports were given to the chief that someone might be trapped on the third floor. Three two-man search teams were organized and sent up a rear stairway to gain access to the third floor. The attic of the building had been converted into apartments, making for a maze-like atmosphere with winding and narrow halls and the rear stairway being the only exit. Upon reaching the third floor, the firefighters found a light haze of smoke and began their search. It’s not exactly known what happened then, but it’s theorized that the fire rapidly spread to the third floor via concealed spaces, triggering the sprinkler heads that were located along the peak of the roof. Under rapidly escalating fire conditions, and heavy heat, smoke and steam, two of the six men were able to make their way out, but the other four apparently became disoriented and ran out of air. As the fire gained in intensity, rescuers found two firefighters lying in a hallway and were able to get them out of the building. Both men were found with their face pieces off. As the fire now took control of the building, the Chief of Department feared losing more men and ordered everyone out of the building. An exterior attack was then made in order to knock down some of the heavy fire before the rescue efforts could continue. After a while, firefighters re-entered the structure and found the bodies of the remaining two firefighters in a front room, approximately 20 feet from where the first two men were found.”
4/9/1979 an Atlantic City, NJ firefighter died of asphyxiation after being trapped in a collapse of a building on Elberon Ave.
4/9/1998 two Albert City, Iowa firefighters “were killed when they were struck by pieces of an 18,000-gallon propane tank when the tank experienced a BLEVE. The piping leading from the tank was damaged when it was struck by an all- terrain vehicle. A vapor cloud was ignited after teenagers riding an ATV struck two LP-Gas pipelines transporting liquid propane from an 18,000-gallon tank to two vaporizer units at a large turkey farm. A fire developed as a result of the leak and the fire department responded. While firefighters were protecting exposures, the tank exploded. Six other firefighters and a deputy sheriff were injured in the explosion.
4/9/2012 Philadelphia, PA a vacant Kensington warehouse fire killed two firefighters at the Thomas W. Buck Hosiery building, an enormous old mill brick structure was scheduled to be converted into 81 apartments several years before the fire, part of the roof of the furniture store collapsed about a half-hour after the fire had been declared under control, five firefighters were trapped when a wall collapsed.
4/9/1911 the business block in Dalton, GA was destroyed by fire; that started on the third floor of the Hotel Dalton shortly after midnight.
4/9/1910 Middletown, PA the business section of the city, about seventy-five buildings were destroyed or damaged by fire.
4/9/1873 in Middletown, CT a building collapsed that killed five. “The building was fifty by ninety feet, four stories, with Mansard roof; built very shabbily. Shepard (the contractor) has had three other buildings fall from cheap construction.”
4/9/1832 the Steamboat Brandywine burns near Memphis, TN leaving more than 100 dead.
4/9/1947 tornadoes striking west Texas and Oklahoma that killed 169 and injured 1,300.
4/9/1903 an explosion in the forward 12” gun on the USS Battleship IOWA off the coast of Pensacola, FL killed three sailors.
4/9/1971 Blackwell and Staby filed for a patent (#3,778,800) of a self-monitoring battery-powered home smoke detector called “SmokeGard” developed by Duane Pearsall an engineer and a technician in Denver, CO. Pearsall’s company sold HVAC equipment for commercial buildings; they were attempting to design “static neutralizer” to remove electrostatic charges for the Statitrol Corporation. While conducting experiments, the ion generator showed erratic readings when the technician, a chain smoker, exhaled smoke, detecting invisible smoke particles. Pearsall realized that the technology in Blackwell’s “kludged together” ion meter had the potential for a new kind of smoke detector. The detector first marketed in 1972 in the Sears & Roebuck catalog for $37.88, a relatively affordable price, (about $200 in today’s dollars). Ohio became the first state in 1971 to adopt residential smoke detector requirements in the state building code for one-, two-, and three-family dwellings. The Uniform Building Code was the first regional model code requiring smoke detectors in the hallways immediately outside bedrooms in 1973. With support from advocates for a low-cost home smoke detector, the NFPA 74 Technical Committee amended the standard to allow the self-monitoring battery power feature; provided an audible trouble signal would sound a chirp for at least seven consecutive days before the batteries were incapable of powering an alarm. A complaint filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 1976, by Ralph Nader, claiming that ionization smoke detectors produced radioactive emissions and were hazardous to the health of people in buildings; asking the NRC to recall detectors and ban further sales of the detectors. Ionization smoke detectors contained a small radioactive source, americium-241, that creates ions in the detection chamber. The NRC dismissed the claim after determining the radioactive exposure was minimal, less than that experienced on a commercial aircraft during a round-trip across the country flight. Before the introduction of the smoke alarms, 8,000 to 12,000 people died each in structures fires. The last few years the number has dropped to around 3,500. Pearsall’s work has saved tens of thousands of lives around the world.