Friday, October 18, 2013

This Date in Fire History: Oct 17, 1966, The Wonder Drug Store Fire

I must have been brain-cramping like mad yesterday. I meant to post this, but forgot all about it.

Which is inexcusable.

Twelve firefighters died, twelve wives lost their husbands (and breadwinners), AND 32 CHILDREN LOST THEIR FATHERS.

And I forgot to post this.

From the New York Times, Oct 17, 2006:

It is Oct. 17, 1966, and Vinny Dunn, a 31-year-old lieutenant in the Fire Department, is sprinting east on 23rd Street to get his orders on working the rear of a burning building on East 22nd.
He reaches a chief who orders him and his engine company into an adjacent building. Then the chief turns and orders another young lieutenant, Joseph Priore, to have his company pull a hose line into the Wonder Drug store on 23rd Street, which backed up to the burning building. Lieutenant Priore and the men of Engine 18 disappear inside, never to be seen alive again. They were lost in a floor collapse, which killed 12 firefighters, including the commander who ordered the men in, Deputy Chief Thomas A. Reilly.
Among them, the dead men left 12 widows and 32 children. It took 14 hours to dig out the dead. Until Sept. 11, 2001, it was the heaviest loss of life in the Fire Department’s history. A lengthy inquiry showed that a cellar wall had been moved, leaving the drugstore’s five-inch-thick terrazzo floor unsupported and vulnerable to collapse.
This was yet another watershed moment for FDNY, in that it opened the city's eyes to the dangers of illegal building renovations (a cellar wall had been moved,  leading to the collapse of the building).

For once, we do not have the usual suspects to blame: overcrowding, flammable decorations, insufficient exits, etc. This time, it's just greed - moving a wall to increase storage space, without shoring up the ceiling.

Left to right, top to bottom:
LT John J Finley, L-7
LT Joseph Priore, E-18
DC Thomas A Reilly, 3rd Div
BC Walter J Higgins, 7th Batt
Fr Bernard A Tepper, E-18
Fr Daniel L Rey, E-18 (probationary)
Fr James V Galanaugh, E-18
Fr Joseph Kelly, E-18
Fr Carl Lee, L-7
Fr John G Berry, L-7
Fr William F McCarron, 3rd Div
Fr Rudolph F Kaminski, L-7
And, as always, the firefighters stood by their fallen:

10,000 firefighters -- ten thousand -- from across the country turned out for the funerals, including firefighters from Anchorage, Alaska, and San Francisco. There were 500 who came from Boston alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment