The Worcester Six + Ten: Remembrance 1999-2009

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Today, December 3, 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire that resulted in the line of duty death of six courages brother firefighters.

The Worcester Six;

  • Firefighter Paul Brotherton Rescue 1
  • Firefighter Jeremiah Lucey Rescue 1
  • Lieutenant Thomas Spencer Ladder 2
  • Firefighter Timothy Jackson Ladder 2
  • Firefighter James Lyons Engine 3
  • Firefighter Joseph McGuirk Engine 3

Overview:   On Friday, December 3, 1999, at 1813 hours, the Worcester, Massachusetts Fire Department dispatched Box 1438 for 266 Franklin Street, the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. A motorist had spotted smoke coming from the roof while driving on an adjacent elevated highway. The original building was constructed in 1906, contained another 43,000 square feet. Both were 6 stories above grade. The building was known to be abandoned for over 10 years. Due to these and other factors, the responding District Chief ordered a second alarm within 4 minutes of the initial dispatch.

The first alarm assignment brought 30 firefighters and officers and 7 pieces of apparatus to the scene. The second provided an additional 12 men and 3 trucks as well as a Deputy Chief. Firefighters encountered a light smoke condition throughout the warehouse, and crews found a large fire in the former office area of the second floor. An aggressive interior attack was started within the second floor and ventilation was conducted on the roof. There were no windows or other openings in the warehousing space above the second floor.

Eleven minutes into the fire, the owner of the abutting Kenmore Diner advised fire operations of two homeless people who might be living in the warehouse. The rescue company, having divided into two crews, started a building search. Some 22 minutes later the rescue crew searching down from the roof became lost in the vast dark spaces of the fifth floor. They were running low on air and called for help. Interior conditions were deteriorating rapidly despite efforts to extinguish the blaze, and visibility was nearly lost on the upper floors.

Investigators have placed these two firefighters over 150 feet from the only available exit.

An extensive search was conducted by Worcester Fire crews through the third and fourth alarms. Suppression efforts continued to be ineffective against huge volumes of petroleum based materials, and ultimately two more crews became disoriented on the upper floors and were unable to escape. When the evacuation order was given one hour and forty-five minutes into the event, five firefighters and one officer were missing. None survived.

Take a moment to reflect on the events of December 3, 1999 and what they may mean to you. Consider your knowledge and understanding of buildings and structures within your district and surrounding response areas. Take the time to review the stories behind the names of the Worcester Six and their legacies, HERE

Remember; “Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety”. For those of you who do not know about this incident, attached are a number of reference links to the USFA Incident Report that provides insights into the event and the lessons learned, as well as other informational sites. Also check out the NIOSH Report and numerous archived articles on the web and within various journals. There are numerous lessons that still resonate today. We must strive to continue to learn from those events that have left an indelible mark on our fire service history and implement change and progress so that there are no more history repeating events in the future.

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