The Hotel Vendome Fire: 25 Years Later

At 2:35 P.M. on Saturday, June 17, 1972, Box 1571 was received at Boston Fire Alarm. It would be the first of four alarms required to extinguish a raging fire at the former Hotel Vendome on Commonwealth Avenue at Dartmouth Street. It took nearly three hours to stop the blaze. Apparatus at the scene included 16 fire engines, five ladders, two aerial towers and one heavy rescue. All apparatus had full crews.

Artist's rendering courtesy of The Vendome Memorial Fund
The Vendome monument will be dedicated on June 17, 1997, the 25th anniversary of the fire.

Once the fire was out, the Boston Fire Department commenced a routine overhaul operation. Then, at 2:58 P.M., without warning, the southeast section of the building collapsed.

More than any other event in the 300-year history of the Boston Fire Department, the Vendome tragedy exemplifies the risk intrinsic to the firefighting profession and the accompanying courage required in the performance of duty. Nine firefighters were killed on that day, eight more injured; eight women widowed, 25 children lost their fathers; a shocked city mourned before the sympathetic eyes of the entire nation.

The Vendome Memorial Fund was established to perpetuate the memory of those nine Boston firefighters, to honor their descendants and to recognize the noble efforts of all members, past and present, and future of the Boston Fire Department.

A monument will be unveiled on June 17, 1997, at the site of the fire in memory of the nine who answered their last alarm on that day 25 years ago. Contributions to support the project may be sent to:

The Vendome Memorial Fund
Boston Fire Department
115 Southampton St.
Boston, MA 02118

News photo courtesy of Bill Noonan collection
The fire and building collapse at the Hotel Vendome resulted in the largest loss of life to Boston firefighters in the department's history.

News photo courtesy of Bill Noonan collection
Crews were performing overhaul operations inside the burned structure when the collapse of the southeast section occurred.

News photo courtesy of Bill Noonan collection
The Hotel Vendome, in Boston's historic Back Bay, was built in two sections, the first in 1872 and the second in 1880. Its height varied from five to seven stories and included a basement.

News photo courtesy of Bill Noonan collection
No warning signs were evident prior to the sudden collapse. (For a complete account of the Hotel Vendome tragedy, see the June 1992 issue of Firehouse® Magazine.)

News photo courtesy of Bill Noonan collection
Those killed were: First Lieutenants Thomas J. Carroll of Engine 32 and John E. Hanbury of Ladder 13 and Firefighters Thomas W. Beckwith of Engine 32, Joseph F. Boucher of Engine 22, Charles E. Dolan of Ladder 13, John E. Jameson of Engine 22, Richard B. Magee of Engine 33, Paul J. Murphy of Engine 32 and Joseph P. Saniuk of Ladder 13.

News photo courtesy of Bill Noonan collection
Many firefighters who survived the collapse reported the sensation of riding down floor sections. All five floors of the southeast section of the building collapsed, bringing down firefighters with tons of rubble and debris. Rescue efforts continued well into the night.