On 5/21/1881 the American Red Cross was founded in Washington, D.C. by humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons.
On 5/21/1866 two Gramercy/Flatiron area, Manhattan, New York (FDNY) firefighters died just before midnight after a fire had broken out at the Academy of Music Theater. “When firefighters first arrived on the scene, the fire appeared to be fierce, but not spectacular. While the steam engines were working up enough pressure to start getting water on the building (this took about 10 minutes) A firefighter of Ladder Company 3 entered the building and spotted flames shooting up from the basement near the stage. Two firefighters of Engine Company No. 13 took a hose inside and were working the pipe (smooth bore nozzle) when they were relieved by two firefighters from Engine Company 5. Meanwhile, as other firefighters and theater staff were hauling out furniture and other property, the gas that had been accumulating in the theater exploded, turning the building into an inferno. Two firefighters were knocked down by the blast and burned; one got out, but the other became trapped between the flames and the front entrance. He was severely burned but managed to escape by leaping through the flames. Unfortunately, there was no escape for two other firefighters. The bodies of the two men were not discovered until 10:00 a.m., after hours of frantic searching. A team of firefighters from Engine Company 5 and 3 Truck found one of the missing firefighters near the center of the stage. His arms and legs had burned away, but he was identified by a knife and a key in his pockets. The other missing firefighter remains were found near the 15th Street side of the stage, just a few feet from the wall that separated the theater from the dressing rooms. His upper torso had burned, and only his trunk could be recovered. Both men were single. Their families each received $1,000 in insurance from the fire department. The firefighter who was badly burned received $5 a week while on disability.”
On 5/21/1868 a Malden, Massachusetts firefighter “died of the injuries he sustained while operating at the Miners Bakery fire at Ferry Street and Eastern Avenue.”
On 5/21/1886 a Boston, Massachusetts firefighter “died after operating at a shed fire.”
On 5/21/1921 a Portland, Maine firefighter “died as a result of injuries suffered at a general alarm fire at Deering High School, 522 Stevens Avenue. He was swept from a ground ladder and buried beneath a pile of bricks when the roof fell in, knocking out the cornice above the front center of the building.”
On 5/21/1940 a Waterloo, Iowa firefighter “died from the effects of smoke inhalation. He died shortly after returning to quarters from a fire at the Russell Lamson Hotel.”
On 5/21/1950 two San Rafael, California firefighters died from a building collapse during a fire. “The fire began close to lunchtime just as the marching members of the Fire Department were supposed to participate in a downtown parade. Thousands of San Rafael residents were lining the downtown area to watch the St. Raphael’s Mission parade. Flames began to shoot high above the building with black smoke moving its way into the downtown area as the business “Mar Vista Motors” became engulfed, even before the firefighters were able to arrive. The building was L-shaped, and the crews set up their hose lines and ladders to attack the fire from the front and the back of the building. One firefighter had become trapped in the fire. The second firefighter was alive when the crew pulled him to safety and administered first aid. He suffered a compound fracture to his leg as well as third-degree burns. He was later transferred to Cottage Hospital where he later died. The first firefighter was trapped under a burning beam when the building collapsed, and it was believed that he died instantly.”
On 5/21/1962 a Houston, Texas firefighter “suffered a severe heart attack while helping to fight a two-alarm fire at the Wanda Petroleum Company on Almeda Genoa Road. The combination of the heat of the day and the physical strain proved to be too much for the firefighter’s heart to withstand. He was transported to Saint Joseph’s Hospital where the doctors knew he was in serious condition. They could not understand how the heart attack did not kill him instantly. He had a strong will to live that kept him hanging on for 19 days.”
On 5/21/1969 a Bronx, New York (FDNY) firefighter died “while operating at an alarm. He was shot to death when a fellow firefighter turned over a mattress that had a gun hidden in it. The gun fell out of the mattress and discharged, striking him.”
On 5/21/1977 a Battle Creek, Michigan firefighter died from smoke Inhalation.
On 5/21/2006 a Denver, Colorado firefighter from injuries he received from a fire on 5/14/2006. “Engine Company 9, along with other Denver Fire Department units, was dispatched to a report of a structure fire in a residence. The caller reported that one person was trapped in the structure. Firefighters arrived on the scene and found a working fire in a 2-story structure. Firefighters entered the house to perform a search; they located a victim and removed her from the structure. The crew from Engine Company 9 laid a supply line from a hydrant and advanced an attack line into the structure. Smoke and heat conditions on the second floor began to worsen. Firefighters had difficulty finding the fire. The ceiling was opened, and water was applied to the attic. The firefighter communicated that the crew should go back to the stairs to regroup. Thinking the victim had exited the other firefighter left the structure. Firefighters operating inside the structure heard the faint sound of a personal alert safety system (PASS) device and began a search. Despite difficult fire and debris conditions, firefighters found the missing firefighter unconscious under a mattress. They reported to the incident commander that a firefighter was down; command activated the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT). Fire conditions were worsening, and firefighters crawled on their stomachs to push and drag the missing firefighter to the stairs. The firefighting strategy was changed to defensive after his removal. He was found to be in full cardiac arrest. Sometime before he arrived at the hospital, a pulse was restored. He remained in intensive care for 7 days. With no prognosis for improvement, life support was removed, and he died on May 21, 2006. The cause of death was oxygen deprivation to the brain as a result of smoke inhalation. The accident happened on Mother’s Day 2006.
On 5/21/2009 a San Francisco firefighter was seriously injured while operating at the scene of a fire in a commercial structure when an exterior overhang of a bowstring truss roof system collapsed and struck him. First arriving units found a working fire inside the structure and senior officers discussed among themselves that a defensive operation should be undertaken. However, that selection of exterior strategy was not properly communicated to all firefighters on the scene including several firefighters who were already inside the structure. The firefighter was operating on the perimeter of the building when the collapse occurred.”
On 5/21/1977 a fire in the hotel Duc de Brabant in Brussels killed nineteen.
On 5/21/1976 downtown McKeesport, Pennsylvania “experienced the largest fire in the city’s history, referred to as the “Famous Fire,” after the fire began in the Famous Department Store on Market and Fifth Streets. The fire destroyed seven downtown structures, heavily damaged more than 12 others, and started fires in at least ten homes due to hot embers blowing more than a half-mile due to heavy gusting winds. Around 1,000 firefighters from more than 40 neighboring fire companies responded to assist, and a contingent of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard was deployed.”
On 5/21/1964 a fire in a Wegimond Belgium resort killed nineteen.
On 5/21/1919 the Mobile, Alabama conflagration started in a meat market and grocery, located on the northeast corner of Madison and Hamilton Streets at 3:25 p.m. and extended to 40 city blocks containing 200 houses.
On 5/21/1917 the Great Atlanta (Georgia) fire was centered in the Old Fourth Ward.
On 5/21/1912 a Waukesha, Wisconsin hotel was destroyed by fire.
On 5/21/1976 a Martinez, California school bus crash killed twenty-eight “when a bus carrying the school choir smashed through a guardrail in Martinez and plummeted to the concrete 30 feet below.”
On 5/21/1953 the 1st Society of Fire Protection Engineers chapter was formed in Chicago, Illinois. “The purpose of the Society is to advance the science and practice of fire protection engineering and its allied fields, to maintain a high ethical standard among its members, and to foster fire protection engineering education. The Society supports the development of the annual Professional Engineer licensing exam in fire protection and the grading of those exams under the auspices of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.”