"THE SUPREME SACRIFICE"

By Hank Przybylowicz

August 1


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


1894 - CHICAGO, IL
Lt. John McGinn - Engine 41
A spectacular seven-alarm fire destroyed most of a lumberyard and damaged 18 surrounding buildings on the block. McGinn was killed when he was blown off the steamer and landed in a bed of hot coals, suffering massive burns.

1932 - MANHATTAN, NY
Lt. John H. Cosgrove - Engine 65
Lt. James Hartnett - Ladder 16
F/F Peter A. Daly - Engine 39
F/F Thomas F. Finn - Engine 65
F/F James F. Greene - Engine 65
F/F William L. Pratt - Age 30 - Ladder 7 - 4-year veteran
F/F Louis Hardina - Ladder 16
A two-alarm fire in a small paint storeroom in the sub-basement of the 41-story Ritz Tower Hotel, caused an explosion that sent a sheet of flame over the heads of firefighters and rained chunks of the walls and ceiling down on them. Hartnett and Finn were killed instantly when they were blown through a concrete wall. As injured firefighters stumbled around in the choking darkness, looking for their dead and dying comrades, a second, and even more violent, blast occurred. Beams and concrete buried the injured firefighters. The blast was so intense that many firefighters were blown up elevator shafts and ladders from the sub-basement onto the sidewalk. By-standers across the street were knocked over, and the explosion was heard a mile away. The men were severely burned and the FDNY Ambulance and Rescue 3 were called to the scene, as well as numerous private ambulances. Greene died shortly after being removed from the sub-basement and Pratt's body was found two hours later, buried under concrete debris. Hardina was removed and died later that afternoon and Cosgrove and Daly died of their injuries later that night. Another firefighter clung to life for over two weeks before succumbing to his injuries on August 18th. Each and every firefighter who responded on the first alarm was injured in the two blasts, but 19 returned to fighting the blaze after treatment at the scene. Six firefighters and two officers were killed and 30 others were injured, some seriously. One captain had a 2x4-inch plank imbedded in his thigh, as well as burns and other injuries. After an investigation into the explosions, it was believed that accumulated fumes in the small room contributed immensely to the blasts.

1934 - BROOKLYN, NY
Batt. Chief John A. Slowey - Battalion 40
He died as a result of severe smoke inhalation sustained while operating at a fire on July 27th.

1971 - LERELEY, MD
Vol. F/F Milton DeSombre - Age 49 - Baltimore Co. FD
Vol. F/F Warren Schaffer - Age 23 - Baltimore Co. FD
Vol. F/F Charles Hopwood - Age 42 - Baltimore Co. FD - 13-year veteran
Vol. F/F Douglas Mueller - Age 18 - Baltimore Co. FD - 2-year veteran
A line of violent thunderstorms moved across the county, dumping torrential downpours of rain onto the area. Streams became flooded, trees were uprooted, and cars were swept off highways. One such incident occurred at the Bean Creek. A car with four occupants had become trapped in rapidly rising waters and firefighters were called to rescue them. Five firefighters entered the water, which was at hood level, and attached a tow cable from a wrecker to the car. The cable slipped off and was reattached in an effort to pull the car out of the water. Suddenly, the car raised up out of the water and floated about 30 feet downstream with the firefighters and the tow truck operator clinging to it. The driver of the car then yelled for everyone to jump out of the car. Both doors were opened and the occupants were washed out of the vehicle by the now raging waters. Before anyone could react, a wave of water took the car under, dragging four of the firefighters, three of the car's occupants, and the tow truck operator down with it. The fifth firefighter managed to grab onto a utility pole and stayed there for over three hours until he could be rescued. A female occupant of the car also survived.

1971 - BRONX, NY
Batt. Chief William C. Rinsdale - Battalion 19 - 24-year veteran
He suffered a fatal heart attack while operating at an alarm.

1979 - SANFORD, FL
As a lieutenant and a firefighter were manning a line in front of a burning one-story pet supply store, the roof collapsed, pushing out the front wall and trapping the two men under tons of rubble. After being dug out from under the debris, both men were taken to the hospital, where the lieutenant, a 16-year veteran, died a short while later. The firefighter suffered multiple fractures and numerous lacerations.

1995 - SHOREHAM, NY
Vol. F/F June M. Fitzpatrick - Age 37 - Rocky Point Fire District
While responding to the fire station in answer to a call, she suffered a fatal stroke.

1998 - STREETMAN, TX
Vol. F/F Barvon C. Hamilton - Age 71 - Southern Oaks Fire Co.
While operating at a large brush fire that spread into a residential area, he was killed in an apparatus collision at the scene.

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.