The first "On The Job" article to appear in the first issue of Firehouse® Magazine was about the Plant Shoe fire in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston in 1976. The nearly 100-year-old complex contained 13 buildings. Units had been to a one-line fire inside one of the buildings...
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Clougherty had ordered an additional district chief and two companies to see how far the fire had extended in the 13-building complex. Apparently, that is when it was discovered that the fire was in the basement, feeding on 100 years of residue from the shoe factory and other materials left inside.
Many unmanned deck guns were left in the street to protect the exposures. Because of the radiant heat, firefighters could not be left in those positions.
"Numerous streams were stretched all over the fireground. Bricks on the exposure were glowing white hot. Sprinkler connections were located on one building, but the connections were broken. During the entire fire, there weren't any water problems. Several pumpers were pumping from two to three blocks away, supplementing the pumpers that were closer to the scene. One of the most important factors was that it rained during the fire. Embers the size of grapefruits were landing all over the wooden dwellings in the Jamaica Plain section of the city. It if wasn't for the rain, there may have been a conflagration."
After Clougherty was relieved and went home in the morning, the fire blew over some of the exposures, scorching them. The wind shifted and it became bitter cold. A few days later, when Clougherty returned to work, he was amazed to see the scorching on the exposures and all the buildings that had collapsed.
"It was one of, if not the, biggest fire in the city's history. A block-long complex. For the amount of fire and smoke conditions, fire operations were excellent. Companies ran lines, attempted to cut off the fire, dealt with the tremendous heat, but the rain saved the day."
Harvey Eisner adds: We thank Chief Clougherty for taking the time to talk with us. In 1972, Chief Clougherty was a district chief assigned to District 4. He responded to the fire in the Vendome Hotel. He was quartered with five of the nine firefighters who died when the fire building collapsed during overhaul. He recalled that he had spoken to the men 10 minutes earlier. He was talking with a lieutenant from Engine 33. Clougherty took three steps one way, the lieutenant took three steps the other way. That's when the building collapsed, taking the lieutenant and the other firefighters down. Nine firefighters died June 17, 1972. In 1997, Associate Publisher Jeff Barrington and I attended the 25th anniversary Vendome Memorial dedication ceremony in Boston, across the street from the Vendome. We still carry Vendome Memorial medallions on our key chains.