The Worcester Tragedy: The Fire

Harvey Eisner compiles a preliminary report and a photographic roundup of firefighting and rescue work at the blaze that claimed the lives of six Worcester, MA, firefighters.Since the tragic fire on Friday, Dec. 3, 1999, the nation and the worldwide fire/rescue/EMS services have focused attention on Worcester, MA. Mutual aid companies from counties across the state were used to cover Worcester fire stations. Out-of-town off-duty firefighters volunteered their services at the fire scene to assist in the search for the six missing firefighters. The fire building had to be taken down during the search so other firefighters weren’t injured or killed in the dangerous structure. It took eight days to recover the last of the missing firefighters.

A Memorial Service six days after the fire brought an estimated 35,000 firefighters from around the world to Worcester to mourn with local firefighters and families. Six separate funerals were held. Investigations into the cause and origin of the fire led to the arrest of two homeless people who were living in the warehouse. They have given statements to the investigators and are awaiting further legal action. Investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have started their report under the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program.

At press time, there was a blackout on information concerning the fire. When the investigations are concluded, reports are released and if permission to talk to local officials is approved, a further update will be published. From the information and photos available from the fire, recovery and Memorial Service, we decided to present a look at some of the many activities that occupied firefighters during this terrible tragedy.