The 1942 Luongo’s Restaurant Fire and Collapse in East Boston; Six Boston Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths
Boston Fire Department Box 6153 Five Alarm November 15,1942
Boston Fire Department Box 6153 Five Alarm November 15,1942
A multiple alarm fire and collapse 70 years ago resulting in six Boston Firefighter LODDs was overshadowed by the Coconut Grove Fire which occurred 13 days later. Here’ the story and legacy.
The 1942 Luongo’s Restaurant Fire and Collapse in East Boston; Six Boston Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths
During the early morning hours of Sunday November 15, 1942, a still alarm followed by box alarm 6153 was received for a fire at 4-6 Henry Street located in the Old Armory Building at Maverick Square in East Boston (MA). The address was for a report of fire in the Luongo’s Restaurant. A fire broke out in the rear of Luongo’s Restaurant on the first floor at about 2:26 a.m. The Boston Fire- District #1 report stated the fire originated in the rear kitchen ceiling.
November 16, 1942 New York Times:
The following is a description of the fire from the November 16, 1942 New York Times: “The fire, starting from a fireless cooker in the cafe on the ground floor at Henry Street and Maverick Square, suddenly swept through the building.
The firemen who were killed had just entered a restaurant on the second floor with a line of hose. As the flames ate through the cross timbers the wall collapsed with a roar, burying two men on the stairs and crushing the three others manning the hose. That part of the wall which fell outward felled about forty firemen standing on the Henry Street side of the building beside the new $20,000 ladder truck, which was buried under the wreckage. At the same, a hot air explosion blew a half dozen firemen across Henry Street.”
The Luongo’s Restaurant was housed in what was called the Armory Building a five and one half story Type III Building of ordinary construction (Brick and joist) consisting of masonry bearing walls with approximate dimensions of 35 feet width x 60 feet depth x 65 foot height. The ensuing fire would spread to the exposure building at 10 Henry Street a three story 20 ft. X 40 ft. x 40 ft type III (brick and joist) structure.
Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.
Fire and Collapse
Upon arrival of the first alarm companies, the fire initially was commanded by Fire Captain Amsler, Ladder Co. 2. District Chief Crowley rapidly assumed command upon his arrival and directed initial fire suppression activities of the companies to interior operations and quickly ordered a second alarm at 03:04hours.
Command was subsequently transferred to Deputy Chief Louis Stickel who ordered a third alarm struck due to fire extension twenty minutes later.
Suppression, ventilation and rescue operations were conducted with the fire under control when at 04:15 hours with without warning, it was reported the 3rd, 4th and 5th floors began to collapse with the brick masonry wall on the Henry Street side collapsing outward into the street. Ladder Company 8, a new 125 ft. aerial ladder, the largest in the United States at the time was buried in the timber and brick rubble and collapse pile. It was reported that as many of 43 firefighters in the street were injured as a result of the collapse.
Search, Rescue and Recovery Efforts
The arrival of Chief of Department Samuel Pope ordered fourth and fifth alarms. This brought Engine Companies 40, 9, 5, 11, 50, 8, 32, 6, 39, 3, 33, 12, 13, 38, 21, 35, 37, 20, 16, 10, 42, 51, 19; Ladder Companies 2, 31, 21, 8 and 3.
First Alarm: 02:27 hrs.
Second Alarm: 03:05 hrs.
Third Alarm: 03:24 hrs.
Fourth Alarm: 04:20 hrs.
Fifth Alarm: 04:35 hrs.
With both extensive interior and exterior collapse conditions with numerous trapped and injured firefighters, rescue efforts and medical assistance was being rendered by all fire service, military, hospital and civilian resources. Local Coast Guardsman were deployed to support the massive search and rescue efforts.
Rescue and Recovery
Six Boston Firefighters were killed in the line of duty as a result of the collapse, all of whom were conducting operations and working on the second floor with hose lines.
Supreme Sacrifice in the Line of Duty:
Hoseman John F. Foley, Engine Company 3
57 years of age | 30 year veteran
Hoseman Edward F. Macomber, Engine Company 12
47 years of age | 24 year veteran
Hoseman Peter F. McMorrow, Engine Company 50
45 years of age | 19 year veteran
Hoseman Francis J. Degan, Engine Company 3
24 years of age | 15 month veteran
Ladderman Daniel E. McGuire, Ladder Company 2
44 years of age | 19 year veteran
Hoseman Malachi F. Reddington, Engine Company 33
48 years of age | 19 year veteran
The Department’s 125 foot “jinx” aerial ladder, reported to be the largest in the nation at that time, was standing beside the falling wall on Henry Street. It was buried in the wreckage. The ladder was originally purchased by the City of Somerville. They found upon delivery that it was too big for their firehouse. Boston bought it. The truck had a series of problems. (additional Story on the 1941 American La France 125′ metal aerial By William Noonan,HERE) Apparatus Info – See Bostonfirehistory.org HERE
Boston Ladder 8 1941 ALF 125 ft. Aerail Ladder Shop#207. Photo Courtesy BostonFireHistory.org
There was some speculation that due to the long ladder and wide bed, the large ladder might have caused the wall collapse. This theory was later ruled out. In fact, some of the firefighters who were on the ladder at the time of the collapse, credit the ladder bed with saving their lives. When the granite and debris began falling, they lay down in the bed and the rubble slid down over them to the street.
Many felt that this was the end to the ladder. But, it was repaired and returned to service in South Boston as Ladder 19. Tragedy would continue to haunt this piece of apparatus. On December 3, 1947, Ladder 19 was out of service conducting tests on its brakes when it overturned and rolled. Provisional Firefighter Joseph B. Sullivan, on the job for less than six months, was killed. The Department took the truck out of service and scrapped
As with many of these incidents, the men involved came from different backgrounds and circumstances that put them on that second floor that fateful night.
Edward Macomber was the father of eight children and considered to be one of the best firefighters in the department according to his superior officers. He was a member of the department for 28 years, and had been injured while on duty more than seven times.
Francis Degan, at age 24 was one of the youngest members of the Boston Fire Department at the time. He had been on the job only 19 months prior to November 15th. His officers thought that the young fireman was well on his way to becoming an officer. Young Degan took great pride in being a firefighter and realized his life’s ambition when he was appointed to the department to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was attached to Ladder Company 1.
John Foley, a hoseman on Engine Company 3, had been a member of the department for more than 30 years. He was planning to retire in a short time. In a tragic case of irony , Firefighter Foley should have been on a day off at the time of the fire, but had changed his schedule in order to get some time off later.
World War 1 veteran Pete McMorrow was a bachelor member of Engine Company 50 and was loved by many of the school children of Charlestown. He had served in the Navy in the first war and was telling his closest pals that he might just be going back to serve again. At age 46, he had carried the colors of the Boston Fireman’s Post #94, American Legion, through downtown Boston. While trapped in the debris for eleven hours, McMorrow’s fellow company members crawled into the space where he lay to tell him to hang on and they’d get him out soon. Throughout the early morning and into the next day the rescue efforts continued. However, when they were finally able to get to McMorrow, it was too late.
This fire and the subsequent six firefighter line of duty deaths were overshadowed by the Cocoanut Grove Fire which occurred only 13 days later on November 28, 1942.
Memorial, Dedication, and Reception
On Thursday November 15, 2012 the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and theBoston Fire Department will be conducting aMemorial, Dedication, and Reception in Recognition of the 70th Anniversary of the Luongo Fire at Maverick Square, East Boston.
The event is scheduled from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm at 20 Maverick Square, Boston, MA.
Video: Former Boston Fire Commissioner Paul Christian shares the story of the little-known Luongo fire as well as that of the 8-alarm Thanksgiving Day Fire of 1889. November has been a tragic month in Boston’s fire history. On November 15, 1942, a fire started in the back room of the Luongo Restaurant.
Collapse Scene from Maverick Square
Boston Fire Department 125 ft. Aerial Ladder on Henry Street Side
Fire Department Journal Luongo Restaurant Fire, HERE
Aerial Image of current property block in East Boston (MA). Bing Maps Image
Historical Note: Three and a half story high, with granite faced and brick exterior walls, the interior wooden joisted building at the corner of Henry Street and Maverick Square in 1942 was one of the oldest buildings in East Boston. It was typical of mid 19th century Boston commercial construction. In accounts of the fire it is frequently referred to as “Old Armory Hall”. “Armory Hall” is the name by which it was known in the early years of the 20th century. That building however never was actually an armory as such. There once was an armory in East Boston. It was located at the corner of Maverick and Bremen Streets in a wooden building that preceded the still standing brick Overseers of the Public Welfare Building. The building in which the “Luongo Fire” occurred was built sometime before 1858. It was known originally as “Ritchie Hall” likely from the name of its owner.
Armory Hall Building is to the left of Photo – Circa 1910
Stress, exertion, and other medical-related issues, which usually result in heart attacks or other sudden cardiac events, almost always account for the largest share of deaths in any given year. Of the 39 exertion- or medical-related fatalities in 2010, 34 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths and five were due to strokes or brain aneurysm.
Fireground operations accounted for 21 deaths.
Residential structure fires accounted for the largest share of fireground deaths (eight deaths).
Eleven firefighters died in nine vehicle crashes. In addition to those deaths, four other firefighters were struck and killed by vehicles.
Firefighter injuries (NFPA 2009)
There were 78,150 firefighter injuries in 2009.
32,205 of all firefighter injuries in 2009 occurred during fireground operations. Other firefighter injuries by type of duty include: responding to, or returning from an incident (4,965); training (7,935); non-fire emergency (15,455); and other on-duty activities (17,590).
The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were: strain, sprain; muscular pain; wound, cut, bleeding, bruise; and smoke or gas inhalation.
The leading causes of fireground injuries were overexertion, strain (25.2%) and fall, slip, jump (22.7%).
Regionally, the Northeast had the highest fireground injury rate.
This past week, the Fire Service set aside and dedicated a week to allow departments and organizations to focus and concentrate efforts and attention on Fire and EMS safety, health and survival.
The theme and focus in 2011 was Surviving the Fire Ground – Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Preparedness. Primary to the theme was a focus on the mayday event and its various workings and components. Seven days were designated for Safety, however what did you or your organization devoted towards the goals and objectives of Safety Week?
Recognizing there are unique and diverse circumstances and demands within all of our organizations, operations and jurisdictions, and not everyone may have scheduled time or had enough time to allow for the planning and execution of applicable training programs, drills and activities attentive and objective to Safety week. Regardless, it is not too late to plan, develop, schedule, implement and execute. Opportunities are there, you just need to make it happen or advocate for such.
There are 188 days of opportunity remaining in 2011.
There are approximately 358 days of opportunity until the 2012 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week.
Enhance upon what you are doing well, improve on what may need advancement or what isn’t up to standards and identify and develop that which is needed but has yet to be implemented.
Don’t miss these opportunities to make a difference or to influence and change destiny; You have that ability.
You have choices and decisions to be made, they all have ramifications; Like choosing the red or blue pill…..
There are choices to be made; more than just red or blue...
The Consciences Observer or Activist
So, at the conclusion of Safety week and as you begin a new week and soon a new month the operative question today is this:
What did you do on your last alarm response related to operational safety and enhanced situational awareness?
How about your last training evolution or training drill?
How about Safety week, hopefully you engaged and participated…
Do you: participate in, contribute, join in, share, lead, promote, instruct, present, facilitate, help, assist, aid, or
Take a minute to look over the following list that I first published on December 31, 2010 in advance of the new year, think about what each of these line items can do for you, your organization and the fire service in 2011. It’s mid year and coming on the closing days of this year’s Safety Week activities, it seemed appropriate to list them again. Don’t sacrifice or forego on these mission critical areas when so much is at stake in the domain of combat structural fire suppression, fire ground survival and the integrated operational and safety needs shared by firefighters, company officers and commanders.
Understand the predictability of performance in the buildings and occupancies not only in your jurisdiction, first or second-due areas, but also in those areas that you may be called upon to respond to for greater alarms or mutual aid. Remember Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety. Understand and improve upon your skill set levels and those of your company, battalion, division, department or region.
Twenty Eleven (2011)
Here are twenty-one (21) Suggested activities, actions or initiatives for you to consider completing in next six months of 2011….
Above all, be safe in all your endeavors, assignments and incident tasks.
Regardless of my years of experience, I will increase my understanding of the basic principles of Building Construction, because; Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety.
Identify eleven (11) buildings within your first-due or response district and complete a pre-fire plan and present this to my company of organization.
Identify an area where new residential construction is underway and follow the construction process from foundation through completion to gain an understanding of operational issues.
I will complete the UL Structural stability of engineered lumber in fire conditions online course AND the new UL Fire Behavior course and implement the lessons learned in my strategic and tactical operations.
I will not take any building or occupancy for granted, and shall take all precautions to ensure crew integrity and safety during my task assignments.
Complete a 360 assessment of all buildings upon arrival (or delegate), whenever feasible to gain reconnaissance information on the building and incident risks and implement this info into my strategic, tactical plans or company task assignments.
Research the issues affecting; Engineered Structural Systems (ESS), Fire Behavior/Fire Dynamics or Fire Suppression Management/Fire Loading and develop a training drill to share the lessons learned.
Select a new or previous published fire service text book and read up on a subject area that I may have neglected or ignored to increase my skill set.
Implement an objective approach towards effective risk assessment and profiling of all buildings and occupancies during incident operations and implement balanced tactical deployment with aggressive/measured assignments; recognizing that my company and I are not invincible.
During demanding Combat Structural Fire Engagements, I will; Do the Right Thing at the Right Time for the Right Reasons and will not practice Tactical Entertainment.
Read the Report of the Week (ROTW) on the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System web site and share the operating experience (OE) lessons with my company or department, to reduce the likelihood of a similar or more serious event.
I will read Eleven (11) NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports and present the lessons learned in a discussion, table top, and drill or training program.
I will attend a regional or national training conference to increase my perspective and awareness of other firefighting, safety or operational methodologies, process or practices to increase firefighter safety in my home organization.
I will increase my understanding of the NFFF Everyone Goes Home Program initiatives, including the Sixteen Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, Safety Thru Leadership and the Courage to Be Safe Programs and other new program initiatives and advocate and promote enhanced safety measures in my organization.
I will advocate and promote safe and defensive apparatus operations during emergency responses and will always buckle-up my seat belt and ensure my crew is always belted-in, not placing my company at risk and obeying traffic signals and postings.
I will implement the New Rules of Engagement during combat structural fire operations; while monitoring and reacting to on-going building performance and fire behavior.
I will increase my understanding of the Predictability of Building Performance and base my operational deployments on Occupancy Risk not Occupancy Type.
I will become a mentor to a new or less experienced firefighter and promote the traditions, honor and duty of our fire service profession, tempered with an emphasis on firefighter safety, survival and wellness.
I will take NO emergency incident responses as being routine in nature, due to frequency , regularity or past performance, demands or outcomes, nor will I take any building for granted; Company, Team and personal safety and integrity is paramount and I will not be complacent, but remain vigilant based upon my training, skills and experience.
I will be an aggressive firefighter; operating smarter, working within the parameters of my Department’s protocols, regulations and expectations while employing Tactical Patience and NOT underestimate the fireground, fire behavior or building performance
I will not settle for status quo; but strive to achieve my highest potential as a firefighter, company officer or commander; and remember I am a brother/sister (firefighter) to everyone in this great profession
Ensure you’re glancing occasionally in your rear view mirror to monitor where you’ve been, while driving your initiatives, programs, processes and actions forward. Above all, maintain the courage to be safe.
Stop and reflect today, where do you stand? What are your true beliefs and convictions in regards to the developing safety culture that is being forged and institutionalized within our fire service? Are your professing one thing, but implementing or allowing another circumstance?
Keep an eye in the rear view mirror; learning from the wisdom and knowledge from where you’ve been, what you’ve done and all your past experiences and practice; but at the same time focusing on the road before you with keen attentiveness on situational awareness, anticipating error-likely conditions and balanced risk assessment and operational management in both your strategic and tactical deployments. Take those opportunities; all 188 days of opportunity remaining in 2011 AND the 358 days of opportunity until the 2012 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week. Make a difference, however small. You can do it.
Here are the links to this week’s previous Safety Week postings and articles on CommandSafety.com
If you didn’t have a look and read, take some time to do so. If you didn’t do anything during Safety Week, there’s always next week or the week after… find the time and commit to some training, insights, dialog, discussion…Get Prepared.
Without understanding the building-occupancy relationships and integrating; construction, occupancies, fire dynamics and fire behavior, risk, analysis, the art and science of firefighting, safety conscious work environment concepts and effective and well-informed incident command management, company level supervision and task level competencies…You are derelict and negligent and "not "everyone may be going home".
Our current generation of buildings, construction and occupancies are not as predictable as past conventional construction; risk assessment, strategies and tactics must change to address these new rules of structural fire engagement. There is a need to gain the building construction knowledge and insights and to change and adjust operating profiles in order to safe guard companies, personnel and team compositions. It's all about understanding the building-occupancy relationships and the art and science of firefighting, Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety (Bk=F2S)
The Newest radio show on FireFighter Netcast.com at Blogtalk Radio… Taking it to the Streets with Christopher Naum. On the Air Monthly on Firefighter Netcast.com. A Buildingsonfire.com Series and Firefighter Netcast.com Production. Advancing Firefighter Safety and Operational Integrity for the Fire Service through provocative insights and dynamic discussions dedicated to the Art and Science of Firefighting and the Traditions of the Fire Service.