"THE SUPREME SACRIFICE"

By Hank Przybylowicz

November 15


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


1864 - FALL RIVER, MA
Vol. F/F Alphonso Borden - Engine 3
While pulling the engine to a shed fire, a rope attached to several of the members broke causing the engine to start running out of control, and dragging several firefighters with it. Borden was manning the tongue, which was used to steer the heavy engine, and tried to regain control, to no avail. One by one the men being dragged let go of the ropes, leaving Borden to man the engine alone. As the engine started downhill, it picked up tremendous speed, but Borden still managed to control it. About two-thirds of the way down the hill, he fell and one of the wheels passed over his head and neck, killing him instantly. The out-of-control machine continued down the hill, where it smashed into the railing of a railroad bridge and overturned.

1891 - CLEVELAND, OH
Capt. John Grady
F/F Michael J. Howley
A major fire erupted in a commercial block and spread to ten other buildings in the downtown section of the city. Grady and Howley both died as a result of injuries sustained while operating at the blaze.

1905 - WASHINGTON, DC
F/F Joseph H. McGinnis - Engine 1
While responding to an alarm, he was killed when he was thrown from the driver's seat and run over by the heavy steamer.

1910 - COLUMBUS, OH
F/F George Miller - Truck 5 - 10-year veteran
He was killed when he fell from the truck while responding to an alarm and broke his neck.

1912 - RACINE, WI
Asst. Chief Edward Hoffman
On arrival at an alarm turned in from a corner firebox, firefighters found that the alarm had been turned in by a passer-by that mistook steam that was coming from a factory for smoke. Chief Hoffman arrived and ordered all companies to return to quarters. He then telephoned the owner of the factory to let him know what had happened, and then reset the firebox. As he was preparing to leave the scene, he suddenly collapsed to the street, unconscious. A watchman from the factory attempted to unsuccessfully revive him and an ambulance was called for. As the ambulance was racing to the hospital with the stricken chief, they were flagged down by a doctor, who examined Hoffman and pronounced him dead of an apparent massive heart attack. He was the first member of the department to make The Supreme Sacrifice.

1915 - BRONX, NY
F/F Michael D. Curtin - Engine 60
He died as a result of the severe smoke inhalation sustained November 6th while operating at a fire.

1935 - BALTIMORE, MD
Fire Alarm Oper. John J. Eagen - Age 53 - Fire Alarm Division - 25-year veteran
While on duty, he suddenly collapsed in his chair and died of an apparent massive heart attack.

1942 - BOSTON, MA
F/F Francis J. Degan - Age 24 - Engine 3 - 1-year veteran
F/F John F. Foley - Age 57 - Engine 3 - 30-year veteran
F/F Edward F. Macomber - Age 47 - Engine 12 - 28-year veteran
F/F Malachi F. Reddington - Age 48 - Engine 33
F/F Peter F. McMorrow - Age 49 - Engine 50
F/F Daniel E. McGuire - Age 44 - Ladder 2
After firefighters had brought a three-alarm fire in a 3-1/2-story brick restaurant, under control, one of the side walls collapsed, killing six of the men who were working on the second floor. The fourth and fifth alarms were struck to bring additional manpower to the scene for rescue operations. After the collapse the fire gained in intensity and spread to several other buildings. Some of the injured did not return to duty for a year. After hours of arduous digging, the bodies of the six men were found. Francis Degan was one of the youngest members of the department and was following in the footsteps of his father who was assigned to Ladder 1. John Foley was planning to retire shortly. He was supposed to be off the day of the fire, but had changed his schedule in order to use his time later. Peter McMorrow was trapped under tons of rubble for 11 hours. Fellow firefighters had tunneled into where he lay, but he was too heavily pinned to get him out. They encouraged him to hang on for a little while longer, but by the time they were able to get him out, he was already dead.

1955 - WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, OH
Vol. F/F Robert Hedges - Age 28
While responding to an alarm during a tornado, he was electrocuted when he walked into a downed high-tension wire. He was the first member of the department to make The Supreme Sacrifice.

1959 - CHICAGO, IL
Lt. Gerald McGrath - Engine 95
While making a routine inspection, he fell from a ladder. After being taken to the hospital, he suffered a fatal heart attack while there.

1968 - MANHATTAN, NY
F/F George L. Collins - Battalion 12 - 16-year veteran
He died as a result of the acute heart attack he suffered July 8th, while operating at an alarm.

1979 - MANHATTAN, NY
Batt. Chief James M. Meyers - Battalion 11 - 22-year veteran
He died in the performance of his duties while operating at a single-alarm fire.

1984 - PHOENIX, AZ
F/F Ricky A. Pearce - Age 32 - Ladder 4
While attempting to rescue a worker who became overcome by fumes while cleaning out a 10,000-gallon toluene tank, one firefighter was killed and 14 others were injured when the tank exploded. Firefighters were called to a petroleum plant to rescue a worker who had collapsed to the bottom of the 20-foot-high tank. On arrival, firefighters could not see the victim and decided to cut into the bottom of the tank to gain access. A protective line was stretched and they began to cut into the tank with a rescue saw. About 35 minutes into the operation, an explosion occurred, venting itself through the partially open cut the firefighters had made. The firefighter using the saw was thrown through the air into the dike wall, and the saw flew into the side of Engine 39. His back-up man, Pearce, was killed instantly when he was also thrown into the dike wall, suffering burns and massive head and internal injuries. More than a dozen others suffered burns, fractures, and cuts and bruises in the blast. The autopsy on the civilian victim later determined that he had died of asphyxiation shortly after entering the tank and was probably dead on arrival of firefighters at the scene.

1993 - MOUNT WASHINGTON, KY
Vol. F/F Harold B. Allgood - Age 21
He was killed when a vehicle struck the rear of the pumper at 85 mph, pinning him under the vehicle and facedown on the back step of the engine, where he and two other firefighters were riding. A volunteer captain, who was responding to the same rescue call, and trying to beat the rig to the scene, owned the vehicle that struck the pumper. He was killed in the collision and required extrication from his vehicle. The two other firefighters were injured when they were thrown from the rear of the truck. Ironically, Allgood's mother was driving the pumper and his stepfather, who was a lieutenant, was riding shotgun.

1993 - SOUTHARD, NJ
Vol. F/F John H. Somay - Age 74
While directing traffic at a fire scene, he was struck and killed by a vehicle.

1994 - BASKING RIDGE, NJ
Vol. F/F Richard A. Liddy - Age 66 - Engine 1 - 21-year veteran
He died of the effects of the acute heart attack he suffered November 9th, while dragging a hoseline at a house fire.

1997 - MIDDLETOWN, NY
Vol. F/F William H. Fairweather - Age 78
He suffered a fatal heart attack while directing traffic at the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

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.