Happy Mother’s Day, a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, and maternal bonds.
On 5/8/1930 the Armour meat processing plant gas explosion killed nineteen people in Saint Joseph, Missouri. “Several women were among the dead. With all the missing accounted for, the final death toll of the explosion that wrecked the Armour and company plant stood at eighteen. The last body was removed from the ruins, and a short time later one of the injured, died in a hospital. The entire six-story building was wrecked. It appeared as if the structure had been lifted and then settled down. Fire department officials advanced the theory that huge ammonia tanks in the building had exploded. No fire followed the explosion, but choking ammonia fumes spread through the wreckage, gassing the trapped victims. A force of 35 girls was employed on the fifth floor. Some of them escaped from the building before it was torn asunder. The debris was piled to about the height of the third story. Rescue workers worked many hours to extricate the bodies of those caught, on the ground floor. Two hundred and fifty employees of the Armour plant and approximately 1000 volunteer rescuers toiled with axes, crowbars, and every instrument that came to their hands to clear away the wreckage in search of victims. Floodlights were set up to illuminate the scene after dark. A railroad switch engine was pressed into service to pull away blocks of debris. Within a few minutes after the blast a crowd of 1,500 spectators and frantic relatives of persons trapped in the structure milled about the gates of the big plant. The scene was one of wild confusion . Firefighters, fighting against the strangulating ammonia fumes, sought to clear their way through the mass of debris. Women screaming in the crowd of spectators added to the uproar. Three firefighters were overcome before the fumes cleared away. Officials of the company said the damages would amount to $450,000. The general manager of the plant declared that he believed natural gas caused the explosion. He said there were no major ammonia lines in the building which could have caused such an explosion.”
On 5/8/1902 three Dubuque, Iowa firefighters “died of the injuries they sustained when a wall collapsed at the Iowa Iron Works Co. foundry, at 9th and Washington Streets.”
On 5/8/1902 a Buffalo, New York firefighter “was killed when the Wells Grain Elevator, a huge wooden structure, exploded and collapsed. The collapse nearly buried 25 other firefighters working at the blaze at about 3:30 a.m. The massive pile of corrugated iron and huge timbers created a pile 60-feet tall and completely blocked Ohio Street. One other member was also trapped but was easily removed.”
On 5/8/1914 a Camden, New Jersey firefighter died “while directing operations from the roof at an extremely smoky three-alarm fire involving a two-story brick electroplating firm, he fell from the roof into an alleyway. In an attempt to avoid falling through a skylight, he had stepped back into a shaft, falling onto a pile of scrap metal in the alley below. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a broken neck and a fractured skull.”
On 5/8/1920 a Baltimore, Maryland firefighter died “during a stubborn and smoky four-alarm cellar fire in a three-story clothing factory, several mishaps occurred, causing death and injuries to firefighters. A member of Water Tower 2 was pulling a hoseline to the fire when he was struck by a Salvage Corps wagon and knocked unconscious. A member of Engine 6 stepped off the roof of an adjoining building and fell to the roof of the fire building, breaking his leg. The lieutenants of Engine 32 and Truck 5 were both overcome by the dense, acrid smoke. After the fire was extinguished, the body of a firefighter was found floating in the deep water that had accumulated in the cellar of the fire building. Efforts to revive him were tried for an hour, to no avail.”
On 5/8/1928 two Minneapolis, Minnesota “died in a blaze in a commercial building at Nicollet Avenue and 15th Street. They were working on the first floor of a barbershop next to a beauty shop where a basement fire was in progress when the floor of the barbershop collapsed without warning. Flames instantly involved the barbershop and prevented their rescue. Both were found dead of asphyxiation, after the fire had been extinguished, in the basement of the beauty shop where they had crawled seeking escape.”
On 5/8/1934 two Paterson, New Jersey firefighters “died as a result of injuries sustained the previous day, when he and another firefighter were caught under a collapsing wall while operating at a three-alarm fire involving a lyceum. The other firefighter died on May 9th.
On 5/8/1936 a Louisville, Kentucky firefighter “was overcome with smoke inhalation after fighting a fire at Rudd Manufacturing. After returning from the alarm, he collapsed in the joker stand. Members of the Emergency Squad and the doctor worked on him, but he didn’t survive.”
“The fire alarm system was called a “Joker System“; when a fire alarm box on a corner was “pulled” a trip lever on the inside started a series of cogwheels turning. Each wheel was so designed to send a signal to the “fire tower” (fire alarm office), which caused a series of holes to be punched into a tape, each time a hole was punched, a horn or bell sounded. The number on the tape designated a street intersection or street address. Each fire station had a set of cards, indicating the location. This was known as the “Joker System”. The system was used from 1882 until 1977 (ninety-five years in service). As more fire alarm boxes were installed, the man on watch in the fire tower was phased out. A man stood watch at the desk, which would be nicknamed the “Joker Stand”.”
On 5/8/1943 a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighter “died from smoke inhalation after operating at a theater fire at Frankford Avenue. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died an hour later.”
On 5/8/1955 two Chicago, Illinois firefighters “died in the line of duty following the arson fire at a hotel on N. Green Street (April 28, 1955). One firefighter of Engine 42, died when a stairway collapsed under him and six other firefighters during the 4-11 fire, and a second firefighter (Deputy Fire Marshal) suffered a heart attack during the blaze and died ten days later. Firefighters rescued more than fifty occupants from the hotel, but seven occupants were killed and more than twenty were injured. Two smaller fires had occurred at the same hotel during the preceding year, and investigators determined that the fatal fire had been deliberately started.”
On 5/8/1974 a Redmond, Oregon firefighter “was involved in a major suppression operation that involved a railroad car loaded with logs. The firefighter had gone home with smoke inhalation and was found dead by his spouse the following morning.”
On 5/8/1978 a Paterson, New Jersey firefighter died “while operating at an arson fire in a vacant dwelling, he collapsed, on the second floor.”
On 5/8/1997 three West Helena Fire Department, Arkansas firefighters died at a hazardous-materials fire. “The West Helena Fire Department was dispatched to the BPS Bartlo chemical plant at 1:02 p.m. They were informed that there was smoke coming from the building and that it contained azinphos-methyl. As firefighters prepared to enter a chemical packaging plant to check a report of a bag of pesticide smoldering the building exploded at approximately 1:22 p.m. killing three firefighters and severely injuring one. A massive fire ensued causing the entire area to be evacuated as the fire fed on poisonous pesticides and herbicides. A huge cloud of toxic smoke covered the entire area, prohibiting firefighters from entering the area immediately. A total of 17 others, including 16 firefighters, were injured in the blast. Eleven, other firefighters were involved in the rescue of the injured firefighter and the rescue attempt for the three firefighters who died.”
Azinphos-methyl (Guthion) (azinophos-methyl) is a broad-spectrum organophosphate insecticide. It is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (the same mechanism is responsible for the toxic effects of the V-series nerve agent chemical weapons). It is classified as an extremely hazardous substance. Azinphos-methyl is a neurotoxin derived from nerve agents developed during World War II. It was first registered in the US in 1959 as an insecticide and is also used as an active ingredient in organophosphate (OP) pesticides. The flashpoint is 69°C (156°F; 342°K).
On 5/8/2013 a Westland, Michigan firefighter died at a strip mall that contained a pool hall and a restaurant. “Firefighters had difficulty finding the seat of the fire and interior conditions worsened. The crew, in verbal communication, decided to exit the structure. A firefighter became separated from the other members of his crew as they exited. The Incident Commander (IC) noted that a firefighter did not exit the structure with his crew and made contact with the missing firefighter by radio. The firefighter reported that he was fighting the fire with another crew. At 0846 hours, he called by radio to say that he was out of air. This transmission was not heard by anyone on the scene or in the dispatch center. When his absence was noted, a crew was sent into the structure to locate the missing firefighter. Conditions did not allow a full search and firefighters did not report hearing a personal alert safety system (PASS) device alarm or low air alarm while searching. All firefighters were withdrawn from the building. Part of the structure was removed to allow a safe search of the building once the fire was controlled. The firefighter was discovered at approximately 1200 hours under debris. He was found with his helmet, hood, and facepiece off but nearby.”
On 5/8/1988 phone service was interrupted by a fire at the Illinois Bell Hinsdale Central Office, a two-story, fire-resistive, non-sprinklered structure, that handled an estimated 3.5 million calls each day. At about 3:50 p.m. the Springfield Illinois Bell facility, 200 miles away, began to receive power failure alarms and a fire alarm at 4:20 p.m. The Hinsdale Fire Department was not notified of the fire until 4:58 p.m. in part due to the failure of the local phone system. Flame damage was contained to a small area on the first floor, but extensive equipment was damaged by heavy smoke. The building and equipment damage had been estimated at 40 to 60 million dollars.
On 5/8/1990 near Grayling, Michigan a rapidly spreading wildfire swept across 5,916 acres of a wildland/urban interface area beginning around 3:50 p.m. that heavily damaged more than 76 homes,125 structures, and 37 vehicles and boats.
On 5/8/1926 a fire broke out in Fenway Park that destroyed bleachers along the left-field line. “Fenway Park is a baseball stadium located in Boston, Massachusetts near Kenmore Square. Since 1912, it has been the home of the Boston Red Sox.”
On 5/8/1916 a German munitions bunker in Fort Douaumont exploded. (The largest fort on the ring of 19 large defensive works which had protected the city of Verdun, France. Fort Douomant was a key strategic point during the Battle of Verdun. A French strongpoint that was taken by the Germans and held for most of the war.)
On 5/8/1911 the Flat Rock Hotel, a mountain resort, two miles from Hendersonville, North Carolina was destroyed by fire.
On 5/8/1908 a fire destroyed a block of 30 buildings including the Terminal Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.
On 5/8/1907 a University building was devastated by a fire that left six dead. The fire started in a basement storeroom, close to the only elevator in the five-story brick structure, the building stood at the northwest corner of Locust and Ninth Streets Kansas City, Missouri.
On 5/8/1898 the Duluth, Minnesota conflagration started. Over 2,000 citizens were homeless when fifty frame buildings on Minnesota Point, just above the ship canal were destroyed by fire.
On 5/8/1888 an Arlington, Nebraska arson fire killed seven.