Chicago, IL Union Stockyard Fire, Dec 1910

FIRE MARSHALL HORAN OF CHICAGO, AIDE, AND 22 FIREMEN PERISH IN THE FLAMES.

FIRE DESTROYS BUILDINGS OF MORRIS & CO. PLANT IN UNION STOCKYARDS.

LOSS NEAR $2,000,000.

EXPLOSION OF AMMONIA PIPE IS CAUSE OF TERRIBLE CONFLAGRATION -- WALLS OF BUILDING FALL CARRYING MANY DOWN TO DEATH.

HORAN AND AIDE LOST.

CHIEF MARSHAL AND ASSISTANT LEADING THEIR MEN, PERISH WHEN WALL TOPPLES OVER -- FIRE AT LAST CONTROLLED.

Bulletin.
Chicago, Ill., Dec. 22. -- Late in the day the announcement was made that the dead would not number over twenty-four, consisting of Fire Marshal HORAN, Second Assistant Fire MARSHAL BURROUGHS, nineteen city firemen, two private firemen of Morris & Company, and STEPHEN LEEN, aged 16, a yard clerk for the Chicago Junction railroad. Ten bodies have been recovered. It was erroneously stated earlier that the chief's body had been recovered. The fire is now under control.

Chicago, Ill., Dec. 22. -- Chief Fire Marshal HORAN, Assistant Chief BURROUGHS, Lieutenant FITZGERALD and nearly forty other firemen were killed, and a property loss of a million and a half dollars, resulted from the destruction of the meat warehouse of Morris & Co., by fire at the Union Stockyards this morning.

Entire Crews Among Dead.
It is now though that the dead may reach forty. The entire crews of Engine Companies 51 and 53 are said to be among the dead. In addition, six members of Company 29 and some of No. 48 were killed. The hope of the firemen and hundreds of admirers of Fire Marshal HORAN that the fire fighter and his men had not perished was practically lost when Battalion Chief LANCY told of seeing the marshal and BURROUGHS together with eighteen of twenty men go down beneath the falling wall.

Tells of Death of Firemen.
"Chief HORAN was in front of the pipemen," said LANCY, "and BURROUGHTS a short distance behind him directing the work when the crash came. I know just where they are and are sure they had no chance of escape. Dozens of firemen saw the same situation and many of them ran to the pile, almost frantic, and began throwing bricks away with their hands. They were like so many coals of fire and any work of that sort was useless. I ordered them back to fighting the flames in the hope that the fire might be stopped in time to find a way to rescue the poor fellows we saw go down to what seemed certain death. I was determined to make every effort within human power to save the men, but the conditions of the the building made it suicide for the rest of us to try to enter it."

Explosion Starts It.
The fire started from an explosion of an ammonia pipe, and spread with such rapidity that the entire building was in flames almost on the instant. A general alarm brought all the available fire-fighting apparatus to the scene. Marshal HORAN arrived immediately and took up the task of directing his men. With Battalion Chief BURROUGHS he led the men to the east entrance of the building and the battle against the flames was taken up from beneath the heavy wooden canopy which hung menacingly above them.

Apparently not noticing their danger the firemen crowded beneath this death trap. Suddenly with the roar of an explosion the canopy and tumbling tons of bricks buried the chief of the department, together with more than a score of his aides. The firemen learning the fate of their chief and his men fought frantically to control the fire at the spot where the disaster occurred. It was hoped that the victims could be taken out and carried to the hospital but inquiry brought the information that such was not the case.

The men attacked the piles of red hot debris to rescue their comrades and dug with desperation with bare hands until ordered away by officers to stop the spread of flames which threatened the entire district.

A graphic story of the collapse of the east wall which carried the men down to death beneath the wood covering is told by Lieut. MACKEY, who was leading a company of firemen from the top of the canopy.

Escapes Were Miraculous.
MACKEY said he saw the walls bulge and immediately shouted a warning. At the same time he jumped from the platform himself and was followed immediately by ten or twelve of his men. The escapes of these were miraculous. "I was in charge of the firemen fighting the flames from the railroad tracks. I saw one man fall near where the men who were caught fell and catching hold of his leg dragged him on to the railroad tracks and saved him. Then my men and I rushed to save others, but our way was blocked by falling ruins and the clouds of dust and debris."

Continued

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Union Stockyards Fire

The Chicago Union Stock Yards fire occurred from December 22 to December 23, 1910 and resulted in the deaths of twenty-one firemen.

The fire, which broke out at Warehouse 7 of the Nelson Morris Company at the Chicago Union Stock Yards on the 4300 block of South Loomis Street, was first reported on December 22 at 4:09 am. Half an hour later it was listed as a 4-11 blaze and within a few hours, more than thirty fire engines were battling the blaze. By the time the blaze was extinguished at 6:37 am on December 23, 50 engine companies and 7 hook and ladder companies had been called to the scene.

Twenty-one firemen, including Fire Marshal James J. Horan, were killed when one of the blazing buildings collapsed with them inside. Until Sept. 11, 2001, this was the deadliest building collapse in American history in terms of firefighter fatalities, though the Texas City Disaster of 1947 killed more firefighters. It remains the worst such incident in Chicago history.

In 2004, a memorial to all Chicago firefighters who have perished in the line of duty was erected near the location of the 1910 Stock Yards fire. The memorial was created at the urging of Chicago firefighters, who helped to raise about 75% of the $170,000 cost of the statue. At the time it was dedicated, the names of 530 deceased firefighters were carved around its base.

Early film pioneer Freeman Harrison Owens filmed a newsreel of the fire and the firefighting effort.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Union_Stock_Yards_fire