Worst U.S. Firefighting Tragedies

The day before the tragedy in Charleston, SC, firefighters in Boston marked the 35th anniversary of the deadliest fire for their firefighters when a collapse occurred at the Hotel Vendome on June 17, 1972, killing nine firefighters. The firefighters were operating when a wall suddenly collapsed during the overhaul stages of the fire.

Remembering Boston's Vendome Fire

This past Sunday was also the sixth anniversary of the "Father's Day Fire" that occurred in New York City on June 17, 2001. Three firefighters were killed when an explosion rocked a warehouse in Astoria, Queens.

In the last 10 years, one of the two incidents that proved most deadly for firefighters occurred just a few months after the Father's Day Fire. The September 11 terror attacks claimed 343 New York City firefighters.

The Dec. 3, 1999 fire at the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse in Worcester, MA, claimed the live of six firefighters that were operating inside the structure when conditions deteriorated rapidly.

Among the worst documented U.S. fires in terms of firefighters killed, according to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • March 10, 1941: 13 firefighters killed in a roof collapse at the Strand Theatre in Brockton, Mass.

  • June 17, 1972: Nine firefighters killed in a collapse at the Hotel Vendome, Boston.

  • April 16-17, 1947: 27 firefighters killed following fires and ammonium nitrate explosions aboard two ships docked at Texas City, Texas.

  • Dec. 22, 1910: 21 firefighters killed at a stockyard and cold storage warehouse in Chicago.

  • July 29, 1956: 19 firefighters killed at the Shamrock Oil and Gas Corp. refinery in Sun Ray, Texas.

  • July 9, 1953: 15 firefighters killed in a wildfire in the Mendocino National Forest in California.

  • July 6, 1994: 14 firefighters killed in a wildfire on South Canyon mountain near Glenwood Springs, Colo.

  • Aug. 4, 1949: 13 firefighters killed in a forest fire at Gates of the Mountain, Mont.

  • Dec. 21, 1910: 13 firefighters and one police officer killed in a Philadelphia leather remnants factory.

  • Oct. 16, 1966: 12 firefighters killed when a floor collapses at a New York City drug store.

  • July 5, 1973: 12 firefighters killed at the Doxol Gas Co. in Kingman, Ariz.