5/17/1923 a fire during closing day ceremonies at Grover Cleveland School in Sandy Mill, Kershaw County (Beulah) SC left seventy-seven dead when “a lamp fell from the ceiling onto the stage of the second floor hall where the play was being held causing the burning oil to ignite the straw and oilcloth used as set decorations. About three-hundred people were in attendance.
5/17/1849 a Saint Louis, MO firefighter died during a conflagration. “Around 9:00 p.m. a fire alarm sounded in St. Louis. The paddle wheeled steamboat “The White Cloud” on the river at the foot of Cherry Street was on fire. The Fire Department with nine hand engines and hose reel wagons promptly responded. The moorings holding the “White Cloud” burned through and the burning steamboat drifted slowly down the Mississippi River, setting 22 other steamboats and several flatboats and barges on fire. Flames leaped from the burning steamboats to buildings on the shore and was soon burning everything on the waterfront levee for four blocks. The fire extended to Main Street westward and crossing Olive Street. It completely gutted the three blocks between Olive and 2nd Street and went as far south as Market Street. It then ignited a large copper shop three blocks away and burned out two more city blocks. The firefighters, after laboring for eight hours, were nearly completely demoralized and exhausted. The entire business district of the city appeared doomed unless something was done. Six businesses in front of the fire were loaded with kegs of black powder and blown up in succession. The firefighter died while he was spreading powder into Phillips Music store, the last store chosen to be blown up.”
5/17/1920 an Oakland, CA firefighter “died from the injuries he sustained after he had fallen from a ladder, after it had collapsed at the Zinkland Restaurant Fire.”
5/17/1932 a Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighter “died as a result of the serious smoke inhalation he sustained the previous day, while operating at a three-alarm sub-cellar fire.”
5/17/1945 a Chicago, IL firefighter “was fatally injured while fighting a fire at 1474 Milwaukee Avenue, Marvel Products manufacturing plant. He was overcome by smoke and revived on the scene, but minutes later he collapsed and fell off a fire apparatus, striking his head on the sidewalk and suffering a fatal skull fracture.”
5/17/1970 a Brooklyn, New York (FDNY) firefighter died from injuries he sustained while operating at an alarm.
5/17/1971 a Mobile, AL firefighter “died while battling a fire in the basement of Scott Paper Company. He re-entered the basement which was packed full of bales of scrap paper. The basement was full of thick smoke and he died when his air supply ran out.”
5/17/1975 a Scio, OR firefighter “died as a result of injuries sustained March 16th, when he received a severe electrical shock while operating at the scene of a motor vehicle accident.”
5/17/1985 Flagler County, Florida “experienced devastating wildfires known as the Black Friday Fires. At that time, these fires were the biggest disaster in Flagler County history where two fires consumed 24,055 acres and caused widespread damage. There were other communities throughout Florida including areas of St. Johns and Volusia that were affected however, Flagler County was the hardest hit of all the counties overwhelmed with wildfires on that fateful day that ravaged thousands of acres throughout the state.”
5/17/1994 a fire in an overcrowded Honduras prison killed 103 people. An overheated refrigerator motor sparked the fire that extended through the outdated jail. “Only a year earlier, a gang fight at the same prison had left nearly 70 people dead. The prison, in San Pedro Sula, 100 miles north of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, was largely devoted to housing gang members arrested in a recent crackdown. This new emphasis on jailing gang members resulted in a prison population of nearly 2,000, although the structure was built to accommodate only 800. The fire and explosion took place in a cell block that housed 186 prisoners belonging to the Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13. The fire started in one of two small refrigerators located in the cell block at about 1:30 a.m. Guards reported that they had to fire their guns in the air in order to keep the prisoners from attacking the firefighters and escaping. Inmates claimed that the guards were preventing the prisoners from fleeing the fire.”
5/17/2009 Bonham, TX an apartment fire killed a woman and two girls.
5/17/1849 a fire destroyed the Centrum in St. Louis Missouri.