Arson Awareness Week 2021 (May 2-8) highlights critical actions that first responders must take to help ensure a safe response to arson fires during civil unrest incidents. The dangers involved during a civil unrest incident put everyone’s life in peril. Innocent bystanders, occupants, first responders, and those committing these acts all have a chance to receive debilitating injuries or worse. The aftermath of these intentional acts can create a devastating financial loss for communities.
5/2/1858 two Boston, Massachusetts firefighters “died when they were buried by falling granite walls at 133-139 Federal Street, at the corner of Milton Place. The fire started at 137 Federal Street, a large five-story granite structure. The building was occupied by the Douglas Axe Company in the lower stories, and Byram & Binley, a bindery company, in the higher stories. Four persons were tragically killed when a wall collapsed onto an adjoining boarding house. About 11:00 a.m. flames were discovered issuing from the bookbindery and printing office of Byram & Binley, from an upper-room, known as the ‘Girls’ room.’ This building and the one adjoining were five stories in height, new, and with a substantial front of granite. The fire communicated by the roof to the adjoining warehouse of Messrs. Grant, Warren & Co., large paper dealers, Nos. 133 and 135, and though separated by a brick wall, the fire descended from story to story, as the floors fell in, and completely gutted the building. The total loss of properly by this fire is estimated at nearly two hundred thousand dollars. Two firefighters were standing on the roof of the boarding house when a large portion of the brick side wall of the large store fell in and they were buried in the ruins.”
5/2/1890 the Unicorn Silk Manufacturing Company in Catasauqua, PA fire and explosion killed four including a firefighter at 33 and 35 Greene Street around 6:00 a.m.
5/2/1908 a New Haven, CT firefighters died from the injuries he sustained after a boiler exploded.
5/2/1911 a Fort Scott, Kansas firefighter “was crushed under a falling brick wall at a two-story brick powerhouse, he died at the Mercy Hospital at 1:40 a.m. Two other firefighters were injured.”
5/2/1921 a Portland, ME firefighter died while fighting a fire at the high school. “On arrival, firefighters found heavy fire showing from a high school. As the members of Engine 6 operated a large line from a ground ladder at the front of the building, a large portion of the cornice collapsed. It fell onto the ladder, knocking the firefighters to the ground in a shower of fire and debris. He was killed, and the other members of the company were injured at the three-alarm blaze.”
5/2/1926 a Waterbury, CT “died from the injuries he sustained while operating at a fire.”
5/2/1946 four Westport, CT firefighters “died from the injuries and burns they sustained after a truck explosion. A truck containing nylon yarn and rubber cement had blown a front tire, causing it to swerve into a tree. Almost immediately flames had flashed from the gas tank, enveloping the cab. The sounds of muffled explosions were heard from inside the truck. When the members from Westport Fire Department arrived at the scene the firefighters approached the truck with the hose from the chemical tank just as the door blew out and the men were sprayed with a blazing liquid. Spectators rushed to the aid of the firefighters, helping several of them roll on the ground to extinguish their blazing garments. A call was sent for state police aid and the injured men were rushed to the hospital in state and local police cars and private automobiles.”
5/2/1973 a California Department of Forestry/CAL FIRE firefighter “died after being exposed to toxic chemicals while operating at a fire.”
5/2/2013 a Reisterstown, Maryland firefighter died at a residential structure fire with residents trapped. “SU418 was the first fire department unit to arrive on-scene and reported smoke showing. The firefighter and the other firefighter donned their protective equipment, conducted a reconnaissance of the building, reported someone trapped on the second floor to other firefighters, entered the structure ahead of an engine crew that was advancing a handline, and began a search of the second floor. Firefighters encountered heavy smoke conditions inside and, within minutes, heard a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device sounding. A MAYDAY was declared. The firefighter was found in a bedroom unconscious. Firefighters removed him to the exterior and found that he was not breathing. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance but died as a result of his injuries. One civilian was also killed in the fire.”
5/2/1972 Sunshine Silver Mine fire killed ninety-one miners near Kellogg, ID that started from during a welding operation or it may have started from an electrical short.
5/2/1967 a Milwaukee, WI instant fifth alarm fire started around 6:35 p.m. “A 6,500-gallon gasoline tanker overturned rounding the corner of 1st and Florida, rolling to rest against the office windows of the 6 story Jewett & Sherman Food Processing Plant. The tanker had ruptured… Instantly, either from friction sparks or hot wires downed with a corner utility pole, the gasoline ignited flashing a wall of fire up the side of the building and through windows on four floors. The 75- year old brick plant was fully sprinklered, but these could hardly cope with 12 tons of flaming gasoline, producing unusual miniature “tornadoes” of fire visible to onlookers… At 6:36 p.m., men at Station 3 radioed in the fire alarm (Engines 3, 1, and 12, Fireboat 1, High Pressure 1, Ladders 8 and 1, Batt. Chief 1). The most urgent problem for the first due companies was getting out of their firehouse. With the fallen utility pole having cut all neighborhood power, the electrically operated doors wouldn’t open. Flames topped the roof of the doomed plant as eight firefighters disengaged the clutches to raise the heavy doors by hand… A Captain of Ladder 8 put in a second alarm at once. Engines 20, 2, and 11, Ladders 4 and 2, Rescue Squad 2, Batt. Chief 4, and Mobile Hospital were dispatched. The Battalion Chief 1 ordered a third alarm a few minutes later sending Engines 31, 26, and 28, Ladder 6, Batt. Chief 3, Ambulance 1, and the Compressor… The first necessity was for Engine 3 and 1 to cut off the extension of fire northward along 1st Street, where flaming gasoline was flowing into a nearby railroad underpass. Other units laddered the west end of the plant and connected to standpipes there. Fortunately, only 2 of the 125 plant employees were still inside when the crash occurred, both escaped unharmed. But the fire did indirectly cause one death, that of an elderly woman tavernkeeper across 1st Street, who fled in terror only to collapse from a heart attack… Advancing under cover of two hose streams, officers sought to rescue the truck driver. “We finally got close enough to the cab to see that he wasn’t in there”, one said. “That meant if he was still with the rig at all, he had to be pinned underneath, and there was nothing we could do for him then. So, we got out of there”. Hours later they learned he had dived through his broken windshield as the fire broke out. A police ambulance took him to a hospital with minor injuries… Foam failed to control the tanker fire itself because the foam blanket was continually ruptured by a cascade of water from streams directed at the building… A major handicap to firefighting was the Milwaukee Road mainline embankment, inaccessible to apparatus, abutting Jewett & Sherman’s north wall below the second floor. Hose was hoisted up ladders at each end of the block, and then carried along the tracks to the fire… Flying brands and a gusty west wind threatened the Coating & Resin Division of Pittsburgh Paint, where hundreds of drums of lacquer thinner were stored out in the yard. Following the fourth alarm at 6:44 p.m. Engines 21, 6, and 9, Ladder 11 with a fifth a minute later Engines 36, 33, and 5, and the Deputy Chief was special called. Engines 13 and 30, and Ladder 12 were directed to stand by in the paint factory yard. A large rooftop signboard did ignite there but was put out immediately. A second exposure, the block-long, 5 story Bostrom Corp. across the tracks, manufacturing foam rubber seating, was protected by a water curtain… As the fire spread, all men were ordered out of Jewett & Sherman’s west end. The Fire Chief arrived to take command, and at 6:51 p.m., 3 more Engines, 25, 32, and 34, and the Water Tower were special called. Engine 25 later answered another alarm elsewhere. A heavy fog stream from a turret nozzle finally quelled the tanker fire. But the floors and roof of the building were too far gone, about 7:20 most of the east wall fell into 1st Street. Fire doors failed to hold extension along the top floors. When this became serious, about 8:45 p.m., Engines 25, 4, and 43, the last two being reserve units, were called. High Pressure 2 brought another load of large hose, and another front was set up on the west… Early next morning, surrounded by more than 50 hose lines, the fire was at last controlled. Several streams were supplied from fire pipeline hydrants, fed at 160 pounds pressure by Fireboat 1 at the foot Florida Street. Officially, Box 1-252 was struck out 27 hours after the first alarm. But occasional flare-ups continued for days… While two-thirds of Milwaukee’s fire force was engaged, three suburbs were alerted under reciprocal aid to cover city fires near the boundaries. In addition, 50 off shift men activated reserve rigs… Though setting no records financially (adjusted loss was reported on as $258,000 damage to the building alone), the Jewett & Sherman fire was a standout in other ways.”
5/2/1893 the Home for Destitute Children fire killed two and seventy-one were rescued around 11:30 p.m. in Burlington, VT. “The building was erected about thirty-five years ago by the United States Government as a hospital and was used as such during the war. Passing into the hands of a corporation, it was used as a home for destitute children, and was well known as such throughout the State.”
5/2/1884 the town of Brisbin, PA was destroyed by a fire that was started half a mile west of Hoover, Hughes & Company mill to clear a piece of land for cultivation leaving a “number of families homeless and destitute.”
5/2/1884 the village of Gilman’s Depot, NY conflagration, the fire destroyed the entire village on the Port Jervis & Monticello Railroad.
5/2/1985 a Cobb County, GA residential fire sprinkler success story is one of the first documented cases of an NFPA 13-D system activation. A fire started in a toddler’s bedroom and the residential sprinkler extinguished the fire, alerted the occupants, and allowed the safe evacuation of the building. Sprinkler systems have successfully controlled many fires in residential properties since first installed in 1982 with minimal property damage and no injuries. “The result of this incident differs sharply from the results of many other similar residential fires in which tragic losses of life have occurred. One such incident happened in Hollywood, Florida on the night of December 20, 1982. The lack of early occupant warning and extinguishment of the fire in its incipient phase resulted in the death of a child.”