New York, NY Broadway Street Fire Kills 12 Firemen, Oct 1966
6 FIREMAN DIE, 6 MISSING IN INFERNO.
3 N. Y. C. BUILDINGS DESTROYED.
By John Mulligan.
New York (AP) -- Three aging buildings in an historic corner of downtown Manhattan billowed with flame and choking fumes today in a blaze that may have brought death to 12 firemen -- the greatest single loss of life in the department's 101 years of operation.
Six firemen were killed and six others were feared dead, and 17 were injured in the basement of a three-story building on Broadway, just south of Madison Square and across the street from the Flatiron Building, the city's first skyscraper.
The collapse of four floors in the buildings, said to be 75 years old, heaped a "huge mass of debris" upon the lost firemen, said Fire Commissioner ROBERT O. LOWERY.
"So it's going to be slow and tedious, this business of spotting the firemen and recovering their bodies," he said.
Search Cut Short.
A search for the victims by rescue teams with oxygen masks was cut short when a floor threatened to buckle and firemen raced from the building as their commander shouted, "Get out! Get out! Everybody get out!"
Later the rescue crews returned with sledge hammers and acetylene torches to break a glass and steel grating on the sidewalk in an attempt to reach the trapped men.
Six hours after the first alarm at 9:55 p.m. Monday, tongues of flame still poked from windows and black smoke spread through the streets.
Mayor JOHN V. LINDSAY and Fire Commissioner ROBERT O. LOWERY, each standing ankle deep in water, looked grave as they watched rescue operations. LOWERY, who had fought back tears when he announced that 12 of his men were missing, said, "There always hope -- but it's pretty grim."
LINDSAY, wearing boots, a rubber coat and leather helmet, shook his head and stared at the scarred building. "I'm just heartsick," he said.
The fire broke out in the basement of 7 E. 22nd St., a four-story building, then spread west to 904 Broadway and north to 8 E. 23rd St.
Firemen, working in relay teams and carrying oxygen packs, entered the flaming structures, but could not bring them under control as fumes and intense heat drove them back to the street.
The trapped firemen were caught either by a backdraft or gas explosion, LOWERY said. THe impact apparently broke down a wall, sending the men into the heart of the inferno.
At the height of the blaze, 200 firemen and a disaster unit with eight doctors and seven nurses were at the scene. The medical team treated several men as they emerged from the building.
"We were in the rear fighting the fire," said fireman JOHN DONOVAN. "I was gasping for air, then I suddenly felt myself go through the hole. Some of my men pulled me up by the collar. My buddies are still down there."
Listing Of The Firemen Who Lost Their Lives:
Lieutenant JOE PRIORE, 42, Engine 18.
Fireman JAMES V. GALANAUGH, 27, Engine 18.
Fireman JOSEPH KELLY, 35, Engine 18.
Probationary Fireman, DANIEL L. REY, 26, Engine 18.
Fireman BERNARD A. TEPPER, 41, Engine 18.
Lieutenant JOHN J. FINLEY, 54, Ladder Company 7.
Fireman JOHN G. BERRY, 31, Ladder Company 7.
Fireman RUDOLPH F. KAMINSKY, 33, Ladder Company 7.
Fireman CARL LEE, 29, Ladder Company 7.
Deputy Chief THOMAS A REILLY.
Battalion Chief WALTER J. HIGGINS, 46.
Chief's Aide WILLIAM F. McCARREN, 44.
Syracuse Herald-Journal New York 1966-10-18