On 6/15/1904 the General Slocum steamship fire killed 1,030 in New York, New York after the boat left the dock in Manhattan with a group from Saint Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. A fire was discovered by a boy who was told to “shut up and mind your own business” in a storeroom, filled with a combination of oil and excelsior. The compartment was heavily involved in fire. The fire protection equipment was not tested and did not work. The PS Slocum, constructed in 1891, was a paddle boat or sidewheel passenger ship. On the day of the tragedy, the ship carried 1,358 passengers, mostly women, and children, for their annual end-of-school outing, plus crew. General Slocum was made of white oak, locust, and yellow pine and licensed to carry 2,500 passengers. The ship carried that many life preservers and just a month before a fire inspector had deemed its fire equipment to be in “fine working order.” Testimony that would follow established that there were few safeguards; life vests were rotten, lifeboats were in the same state, fire drills were non-existent, and the crew was untrained to handle the panic that followed on board the Slocum. As the ship reached 97th Street, some of the crew on the lower deck saw puffs of smoke rising through the wooden floorboards and ran below to the second cabin. But the men had never conducted any fire drills, and when they turned the ship’s fire hoses onto the flames, the rotten hoses burst. Rushing back above deck, they told the Captain that they had encountered a “blaze that could not be conquered.” It was “like trying to put out hell itself.” Onlookers in Manhattan, seeing the flames, shouted for the captain to dock immediately. Instead, the Captain feared the steering gear would break down in the strong currents and leave the Slocum helpless in midriver, plowed full speed ahead. He aimed for a pier at 134th Street, but a tugboat captain warned him off, fearing the burning ship would ignite lumber stored there. The Captain made a run for North Brother Island, a mile away, hoping to beach the Slocum sideways so everyone would have a chance to get off. The ship’s speed, coupled with a fresh north wind, fanned the flames. Mothers began screaming for their children as passengers panicked on deck. As fire enveloped the Slocum, hundreds of passengers hurled themselves overboard, even though many could not swim.”
On 6/15/1921 a Portland, Oregon firefighter died at a fire in the May Apartments at SW 14th and Taylor. “The fire, which would cause $75,000 in damage, began in the basement tool room and traveled up the dumb waiter to the top of the building and involving all four stories. The investigation revealed the likely cause was the spontaneous combustion of oily rags. So rapid was the spread that arriving crews had to place ladders to rescue occupants from upstairs windows. The firefighter had entered the 3rd floor to try and locate the seat of the fire when he was overcome by smoke. He was found lying on the floor. In all, four other firefighters and three civilians were injured in the fire.”
On 6/15/1922 a Queens, New York (FDNY) firefighter died “while operating at an eight-alarm fire. He was killed, and another firefighter was critically injured, when they were caught under a collapsing chimney. The injured firefighter died three days later on June 18th as a result of injuries sustained.
On 6/15/1925 a San Francisco, California firefighter “died from the injuries he sustained while performing his duties at the Berg Brothers fire, at 638 Clay Street.”
On 6/15/1936 a Sacramento County, California firefighter died of the injuries he sustained while operating at a fire.
On 6/15/1961 a Toledo, Ohio firefighter “died as a result of burns suffered at the Anthony Wayne Trail tanker fire, June 10, 1961. As a result of the accident that cost several lives, a bill was passed to prevent tandem trailers from carrying gasoline. Four firefighters would die.”
On 6/15/1975 two “Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (Hebron, Kentucky) firefighters died from the injuries they sustained while operating at a fire that swept through the airport offices and the weather bureau in Terminal 1. The fire caused heavy damage and consumed many historic records.”
On 6/15/1992 a Detroit, Michigan firefighter was killed while “engaged in exterior suppression directing a 2-½” line through the basement windows of the structure. Without warning, the dwelling collapsed, trapping him and five other firefighters.”
On 6/15/2003 two Memphis, Tennessee firefighters died at a structure fire involving a Family Dollar Store. “As they arrived on-scene, they found smoke showing from the store at the end of a strip mall. Firefighters proceeded through the retail area of the store and encountered only light smoke. When they attempted to enter a small office in the stock area at the rear of the store, they encountered a working fire. They were unable to close the office door and the fire advanced rapidly. Firefighters advanced handlines into the interior of the store and began fire suppression operations. As they worked in the rear of the structure, conditions worsened rapidly as dense smoke and high heat levels filled the building. One of the firefighters requested relief and left the nozzle to return to the exterior. He likely became disoriented in the smoke although his actions after leaving the nozzle are unknown. The second firefighter and another firefighter began to direct their hose stream into the stockroom area. They heard a firefighter call for help. A structural collapse occurred and knocked him and the other firefighter to their knees. He transmitted a Mayday call and said that he was trapped in the building. The collapse occurred approximately 17 minutes after the initial dispatch. The firefighter he was with was able to free him from the debris and both firefighters headed for the front of the store following their hoseline. As the firefighter crawled over a large pile of debris, they lost contact. Upon hearing the Mayday, the rapid intervention crew (RIC) advanced into the interior of the store and began their search. The RIC located and removed a firefighter; he was out of air and disoriented. The RIC then located the firefighter that had been with the missing firefighter; he too was out of air and disoriented. A ladder company was the only fire company at the rear of the building. They had forced entry to a rear door but did not have a handline and could not advance into the building. These firefighters heard an activated personal alert safety system (PASS) device in the interior after hearing reports of missing firefighters. The rear sector commander allowed firefighters to enter the interior without a handline to search for the downed firefighters. Upon entering the structure, firefighters heard two PASS devices. They were able to follow the sound to the first missing firefighter and remove him from the building. Firefighters made repeated rescue efforts but were driven from the store by the fire progress and their efforts were slowed by the structural collapse. Due to fire conditions, the incident commander (IC) ordered an end to all interior operations. After the major body of fire was controlled with exterior streams, a rescue company breached a wall at the rear of the structure. The location of the hole was based on reports of the whereabouts of the second missing firefighter. He was removed from the building and transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of the fire was determined to be arson. The store manager ignited the fire in an office to the rear of the structure. The fire was set to cover the theft of several thousand dollars from the store safe.”
On 6/15/2011 a Muncie, Indiana firefighter died after he and the members of his fire department were dispatched to a report of a fire in a large church. “First arriving firefighters reported visible flames and heavy smoke coming from the roof. The first arriving company officer called for a second alarm and shortly thereafter special called additional tankers (tenders). Firefighters entered the structure and found mostly clear conditions in the interior of the church. As firefighters began to open up the ceilings to access the attic space, they discovered a considerable amount of fire. Interior crews were having difficulty controlling the fire with a handline. Water supply was an issue; the area of the church did not have fire hydrants. Interior firefighters notified the incident commander that they were withdrawing from the structure. As firefighters were preparing to leave, a structural collapse occurred. An accountability check was conducted and it was realized that a firefighter was missing. Due to the volume of fire, firefighters were unable to access the collapsed area. The firefighter was located when a news helicopter flying over the scene spotted his remains in the debris. The cause of death was listed as smoke inhalation. The origin of the fire was likely a lightning strike earlier in the day.”
On 6/15/2019 “a nine-alarm fire tore through a Lower Mills neighborhood in Dorchester displacing fourteen residents, according to Boston (Massachusetts) fire officials. The Boston Fire Department said nine people, including seven firefighters, were treated and transported to a hospital by Boston Emergency Medical Services. The injuries are considered non-life-threatening. Fire officials said crews responded at 4:45 p.m. to the area of 39 Old Morton Street, which is near the Mattapan neighborhood line. Witnesses told WCVB and investigators that they heard a loud boom. The fire started in a vacant home that was under construction. Upon arrival, firefighters found the home fully engulfed in flames, which eventually spread to seven adjacent homes.”
On 6/15/2013 a large fire at an Indianapolis, Indiana recycling plant on the outskirts of downtown burned for several hours. Firefighters were forced to address difficult private hydrant access, exploding propane tanks, interior structural collapse, high winds, spot fires from flying embers, and an active railroad at the former Link-Belt factory building.
On 6/15/1960 a Titan missile explosion killed a technician and injured nine others at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
On 6/15/1922 over 600 buildings were destroyed by fire in Arverne, New York.
On 6/15/1903 a Jackson, Kentucky hotel was destroyed by an arsonist seeking vengeance against the owner.
On 6/15/1900 the Edna, Texas Courthouse was destroyed by fire around 4:00 a.m.
On 6/15/1854 the Worcester, Massachusetts conflagration started.