"THE SUPREME SACRIFICE"

By Hank Przybylowicz

July 9


On this date in history, the following members of the fire service made "The Supreme Sacrifice:"


1850 - PHILADELPHIA, PA
Vol. F/F H. Lichtenhahm - Assistance Engine Co.
Vol. F/F Richard Owens - Assistance Engine Co.
Vol. F/F George McGinnis - Hibernia Hose Co.
Vol. F/F David Mulford - North Liberty Hose Co.
Vol. F/F Hoffman - Spring Garden Hose Co.
Vol. F/F Mortimer Morris - United States Engine Co.
Vol. F/F Thomas I. Sties - Vigilant Engine Co.
Vol. F/F Isaac Brown - Weccacoe Hose Co.
They died in the performance of their duties.

1891 - PATERSON, NJ
Vol. F/F James H. Moser - Engine 1
He was killed when a soda-acid tank exploded.

1898 - BALTIMORE, MD
F/F Harry Courtney - Age 39 - Truck 3 - 3-year veteran
As the members of Truck 3 drilled in front of their quarters, he was killed instantly when he lost his footing after climbing to the top of the aerial and fell to the pavement below.

1903 - LOUISVILLE, KY
F/F William Herman
He died in the performance of his duties.

1909 - ALBANY, NY
F/F James P. Kelly - Engine 2
He was killed while operating at a fire.

1936 - INDIANAPOLIS, IN
Lt. George W. Ream - Age 40 - Engine 12 - 15-year veteran
While operating at a brush fire, he collapsed and could not be revived. He was rushed to a hospital, where he later died as the result of an apparent massive heart attack.

1943 - CHICAGO, IL
Capt. Arthur Barcal - Engine 14 (Act. Batt. Chief)
Capt. Henry Wurthmann - Truck 9
Lt. Edward J. Moffett - Truck 3
F/F Thomas McCarthy - Engine 12
F/F Richard Jablonski - Truck 2
F/F Robert Walsh - Squad 1
Fire Patrolman Harry Weinel - Fire Patrol 5
While operating at a four-alarm fire in a four-story brick commercial building, they were killed when the entire roof collapsed, carrying each floor down to the basement. Only five hours earlier, they had fought a three-alarm fire in the same building. An unknown number of men were trapped, but the front wall was cracked and bulging, causing concern about additional collapses. The Fire Commissioner, who arrived and took charge of the incident, ordered two holes to be dug through the basement walls with air hammers in an attempt to reach the trapped men. Upon seeing that none of the men could be reached through either opening, and that it might cause further collapse, the operation was aborted. It was then decided that the only way they were going to reach their trapped comrades was to remove the tons of debris by hand through a front window on the first floor. As firefighters heroically dug through the rubble, a portion of the wall left standing at the fourth floor level, collapsed, but no one was injured. After six hours of arduous digging, the first body was found. Thereafter, men were dug out one by one, some still alive. They were all taken to the hospital, where some of the men died shortly after their arrival. A total of six firefighters and one fire patrolman were killed outright in the collapse. An unknown number of men were injured, three of who would die at later dates, bringing the final death toll to ten. One of the injured firefighters died the next day and another on July 13th. Another fire patrolman died at a later date in July. Investigators later determined that the collapse was caused when water from the fire streams applied at both fires, was absorbed by the 350,000 bundles of cardboard boxes that were stored on the fourth floor. Each bundle contained 300 boxes, which put the entire storage well above the floor's legal load limit. It was felt that the water-soaked materials caused the walls to bulge out, thereby allowing the fire-weakened roof beams to slip from their supports. The entire roof went in, carrying each floor with it to the basement. It was also noted that the two fires had also weakened the floor beams.

1949 - CLEVELAND, OH
F/F Henry F. Lange
He died in the performance of his duties.

1953 - ALDER CREEK, CA
Ranger Robert Powers - Age 27 - US Forest Service
Vol. F/F Allen Boddy - Age 30
Vol. F/F Sergio Colles - Age 46
Vol. F/F Benjamin Dinnell - Age 24
Vol. F/F Paul Gifford - Age 32
Vol. F/F Harold Griffis - Age 32
Vol. F/F Cecil Hitchcock - Age 21
Vol. F/F David Johnson - Age 25
Vol. F/F Robert J. Meiden - Age 36
Vol. F/F Darrel Noah - Age 35
Vol. F/F Howard Rowe - Age 25
Vol. F/F G. Daniel Short - Age 20
Vol. F/F Raymond Sherman - Age 19
Vol. F/F Stanley Vote - Age 26
Vol. F/F Robert S. Whitehouse - Age 30
After operating at a forest fire for most of the day controlling a spot fire in a narrow canyon in the Mendocino National Forest, Powers and a crew of 23 volunteer firefighters from the New Tribes Mission boot camp, were resting and eating sandwiches in the canyon. Suddenly, the wind shifted direction and increased in intensity, throwing burning embers across a control line. As the men began to run for their lives, other rangers watched helplessly from an overlook as the blowup raced down the canyon toward the trapped firefighters. Nine men were able to scale the canyon walls and climb to safety, however, Powers and 14 others were caught in the fire as they attempted to desperately dig shelter holes in the ground. Their bodies were retrieved the next day after bulldozers were used to cut a path to the canyon. The volunteers that died were from a religious missionary camp that was preparing the men to become missionaries in South America. They had no firefighting training or experience, but volunteered to help fight the fire anyway. The fire was determined to be arson, and a 26-year-old man, whose father was with the U.S. Forest Service, was arrested in connection with the blaze. Being unemployed at the time, he reportedly started the blaze hoping to be hired for fire camp kitchen work. He was charged with murder, but it's unknown how the case turned out.

1965 - BALTIMORE, MD
F/F Morris E. Hunt - Age 32 - Truck 6 - 9-year veteran
In the extreme heat of the summer, firefighters had their hands full with a six-alarm fire that destroyed a large three-story brick, L-shaped loft building. After a portion of the rear wall collapsed, Hunt stated that he didn't feel well and walked out of the smoky rear yard to the front of the building, where he collapsed on the fender of Engine 8. The department surgeon began external heart massage, while a battalion chief began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Their efforts proved unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead of an apparent massive heart attack.

1984 - COTTAGE GROVE, OR
F/F Richard H. Bowers - Age 22 - Oregon Division of Forestry
F/F Barbara A. Booth - Age 19 - Oregon Division of Forestry
While en route to a forest fire in a 1977, 1,000-gallon forestry tanker, they were killed when Bowers, who was driving, apparently failed to negotiate a turn onto a gravel road. The truck overturned and slid into a bridge abutment, where the tank was knocked loose from the chassis. The chassis then continued down a 25-foot embankment, where it landed right side-up in a creek. The tank then crashed down on top of the cab, crushing it. The crash wasn't discovered for about a half-hour. Both firefighters were extricated and taken to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead as a result of massive internal injuries.

1986 - CHICAGO, IL
F/F Thomas O'Donovan - Engine 107
He was killed when he fell from Snorkel 7 as it backed into quarters.

1995 - NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR
Lt. Randy Williford - 22-year veteran
He died as a result of the heart attack he had suffered during a strenuous physical agility test on July 6th.

1997 - SANDIA, TX
Vol. F/F Thomas C. Gentry - Age 54
While responding to an alarm, a pumper apparently came up too quickly on the rear of another vehicle. As the driver of the engine attempted to avoid a collision, he overcorrected and the pumper flipped over. Gentry was critically injured and was rushed to the hospital, where he died after a short time. Another firefighter was also injured. Reportedly, neither man was wearing a seat belt.

Lay me down beside cool waters,
And lay to rest my body sore.
Send the word out to my brothers,
The fire is down, let it burn no more.
- Charlie Ball -
"Fireman's Prayer"


Let us not forget these brave souls who unselfishly gave their lives in the performance of their duties. Let us all take a moment out of our busy day to say a prayer for these fallen soldiers of the Lord, and ask that He grant them eternal rest and peace in His Kingdom. Also ask that He watch over and protect the member's loved ones who were left behind.


The Supreme Sacrifice© is a product of the Line of Duty Research Service. This product may not be used in any form for commercial venture or for monetary gain without the expressed written permission of the Line of Duty Research Service. Copyright© 1999. All rights reserved.