Every year, the Worcester, MA, Fire Department hosts a ceremony at the site of the Dec. 3, 1999, Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse fire, but the most recent memorial service held last month was different. It was the 10th anniversary of the tragic fire that claimed six firefighters. It deserved a special event.
And so, that's what Worcester did. Some 1,400 uniformed firefighters marched to the cadence of 60 bag pipers and 20 drummers as they progressed to the Franklin Street fire station, the very site of the horrific fire that has been transformed into a $2 million, state-of-the-art station complete with a firefighter-generated memorial.
"It's like we're keeping watch on the property and the guys do an immaculate job," said Worcester Fire Chief Gerard Dio. "The place always looks nice. …It's where the guys died. It's where they would feel comfortable. It's like they're with us all the time now."
Dio was the deputy fire chief at the time of the fire and has served as chief for nine years. "For the past 10 years, we have been returning to this site in remembrance of our comrades and friends who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the community they swore to protect," Dio said. "Tonight, I am asking you to look past your sorrow and instead focus on the fact that, although the flames of that raging inferno have long been extinguished, a spark from that blaze continues to burn through the nationwide mission that grew from the desire and the need of so many to ensure that a tragedy such as this would never be repeated."
At almost to the minute of the original alarm, a recording of the dispatcher's callout was played over the public address system. The tones were struck followed by the radio transmission.
"The Worcester fire alarm striking box 1483, Franklin and Arctic streets, reported building fire," the dispatcher said. "Engine 1, Engine, 6, Engine 12, Engine 13, Ladder 1, Ladder 5, the rescue company, and Car 3, take the box. Time out 18:13."
Without saying another word, Dio took the microphone and read aloud the names of each of the brothers who gave all as a brightly polished, chrome bell chimed over the thousands gathered in their memories: "Lieutenant Thomas Spencer, Lieutenant Timothy Jackson, Firefighter Paul Brotherton, Firefighter Jeremiah Lucey, Lieutenant James Lyons, Firefighter Joseph McGuirk."
Family and friends laid a wreath at the monument to the Worcester Six after each name was read. A 21-gun salute and the playing of "Amazing Grace" capped the evening with the recessional and march back to Union Station, where the procession began, a short walk through part of the city's downtown.
Extensive coverage of the anniversary, including video of the event, photos, columns and interviews with local officials as well as archives from the original coverage of the fire, can be found at http://www.firehouse.com/worcester-anniversary.