Author Topic: October 17, 1966  (Read 779 times)

Offline 1261Truckie

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October 17, 1966
« on: October 17, 2018, 10:25:39 AM »
Continued Rest in Peace to the 12 members lost on that date.
Continued thoughts and prayers for their families who are still with us and who have passed on.
Continued thoughts and prayers for the members who responded to and worked at the Wonder Drug Store and for the houses that lost those men

October 17, 1966
« on: October 17, 2018, 10:25:39 AM »

Offline 68jk09

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Re: October 17, 1966
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2018, 02:59:45 PM »
BOX 598 10-17-66


October 12, 2003
A Grievous Day, Eclipsed by Sept. 11

On Oct. 17, 1966, 12 firefighters died while responding to a catastrophic fire across Broadway from the Flatiron Building. For 35 years, the tragedy remained the New York Fire Department's single greatest loss of life.

For more than two decades, the city marked the anniversary with a solemn ceremony. But in the early 1990's, several years before Oct. 17 was eclipsed by Sept. 11 as the saddest date on the firefighters' calendar, memories began to dim, and the city stopped holding memorial services for those 12 dead men.

The terrorist attack is still an open wound. Flowers and candles can still be seen in front of firehouses that lost men, and ground zero remains a somber pilgrimage site. T-shirts proclaim that we will "never forget."

But we do forget. Like many before it, the '66 fire has begun fading into history. All that now remains at the site, a high-rise on East 23rd Street facing Madison Square Park, is a small bronze plaque with the date and the names of the dead.

Calamities cry out for attention every day, and the sad truth is that huge numbers of casualties trump small ones. So it is not surprising that the loss of 343 firefighters on Sept. 11, 2001, has dwarfed every other Fire Department tragedy.

A small group of firefighters and relatives still gather on the anniversary of the '66 fire. A few have vowed to bring it back to the city's consciousness. But they know that time and totals are against them.

"When I started hearing the numbers after Sept. 11, I said to myself, `Well, 12 is nothing now,' " said Manuel Fernandez, who lost all but one of six fellow firefighters in Engine 18 in the '66 fire. "But that shouldn't mean we forget these guys. Twelve men never came home. And it meant a lot to the city at the time."

Mr. Fernandez has been urging city officials to revive a formal commemoration. As of now, there are no plans to do so, said the Fire Department's chief spokesman, Francis X. Gribbon.

"Unfortunately," he said, "there have been so many tragic losses in recent history that it would be hard to honor them all separately."

Photographs from the '66 fire eerily foreshadow the images of Sept. 11. Thousands of haggard firefighters gathered at the scene as the dead were carried out of the blackened building. Thousands more lined Fifth Avenue during the funeral cortege four days later. The heroism of the dead men was proclaimed in headlines for weeks afterward.

"It really stopped New York City," said Daniel Andrews, who at the time followed Engine 18 as a teenage fire buff and now works in the Queens borough president's office. "You could hear a pin drop on Fifth Avenue during those funerals."

It all began on a cool evening at 9:30 p.m. Mr. Fernandez, a former professional boxer who had been with Engine 18 on West 10th Street for six years, was upstairs in the kitchen eating a late supper when he heard the first alarm.

When Engine 18 arrived at 23rd Street and Broadway, several crews were already on the scene. Smoke was rising from one of the buildings along Broadway, but no flames were visible, and the firefighters were confused about the source of the fire.

"I dropped them off on the 23rd Street side, and it was hazy in there, like a pool room," Mr. Fernandez said. As the "chauffeur," his duty was to man the motor pump on the engine.

While on the street, he heard a dull roar and knew instantly that something was wrong. He went into the drugstore building where five of his fellow firefighters had gone and began crawling in darkness. "You had about a foot of clear vision," he recalled. "I'm yelling: `Eighteen! Eighteen!' "

At that moment, he saw a burst of flame in what looked to him like the shape of a Christmas tree, and a tremendous wave of heat struck him in the face. He heard popping — the sound, he later realized, of drug or perfume bottles exploding — and turned to run out.

He did not know it at the time, but a fire raging in the cellar had caused a vast section of the building's first floor to collapse, taking 10 firefighters down with it and killing two others who had not fallen in. The flames he had seen were rising straight up from the cellar to the rest of the building.

Standing in the street, Mr. Fernandez watched in horror as curtains of fire began to engulf the block.

A rescue party made heroic efforts to reach the doomed men, according to a history published in 1993 by the Uniformed Firefighters Association. One firefighter, stumbling forward in the darkness, reached the edge of the collapsed area and fell in. One hand clutched the nozzle of the hose as he fell, and for a few moments, he hung swaying over the abyss, flames licking at his body, before other firefighters pulled him to safety.

By now, it had become a five-alarm fire, and hundreds of firefighters from all over the city were arriving, including many who were off duty. Ultimately, some 2,000 firefighters responded; at the time it was the largest gathering at a single working fire in American history.

At 1:30 a.m. the first two bodies were carried out. Thousands of people, including Mayor John V. Lindsay, watched from the street.

Exhausted, Mr. Fernandez took the subway back to his home in Queens. He recalls drinking a tall glass of Scotch and trying unsuccessfully to sleep. After an hour, he went back to the site.

Day was breaking, and as the fire gradually came under control, 10 more bodies were found in the smoking ruins of the drugstore.

Mr. Andrews, the young fire buff, had been uptown when the fire started, complaining to another fire crew that Engine 18 did not see enough action. He raced downtown after hearing the alarms and joined the crowds in the street. He had no inkling that the men he worshiped were already dead.

After the last body was carried out at 11 a.m., hundreds of weary, soot-blackened firefighters walked across the street into Madison Square Park. They were led by John T. O'Hagan, the chief of department, who had known all the dead men.

"This is the saddest day in the 100-year history of the Fire Department," Chief O'Hagan said as the firefighters gathered around him and removed their helmets. "They never had a chance. I know that we all died a little in there."

No civilians were killed in the fire, which investigators said appeared to have been triggered by electrical wires in the basement of an art dealership that had been loaded with wood and flammable paints.

In the years afterward, the Fire Department marked the anniversary with annual memorial services. On the fifth anniversary, Mayor Lindsay spoke, conjuring up still-fresh memories of the scene. On the 10th anniversary, Mayor Abraham D. Beame presided.

In 1986, Mr. O'Hagan, then a former fire commissioner, said he thought the department's annual memorial services for firefighters who die in the line of duty should be moved to Oct. 17.

"Oct. 17 should always be the first and most revered date on the New York City Fire Department calendar," he said.

Formerly embedded in the sidewalk, the simple plaque now affixed to the Madison Green building on 23rd Street was dedicated at the ceremony. But after an observance of the 25th anniversary, in 1991, the annual rites faded away. Nothing came of Commissioner O'Hagan's proposal.

As the 35th anniversary of the fire approached in 2001, Mr. Fernandez, who retired from the department in 1990, began urging officials to arrange a remembrance. On Sept. 7, Peter J. Ganci Jr., then the chief of department, promised him something would be done.

Four days later, Chief Ganci was dead, along with 342 other members of the department. Suddenly the '66 fire seemed almost meaningless by comparison, and Mr. Fernandez dropped his efforts for a year.


REST IN PEACE TO THE 12......NEVER FORGET !.....................The FF mentioned in the story above who fell into the hole after the collapse while searching for his Unit & held onto the Nozzle & was pulled out was a FF i knew whose Father let me keep my car in their garage while i was in Viet Nam......His name was Jack Donovan ......he lived for several years after this incident & passed away from a stroke while a Member of LAD*173.......Manny Fernandez who was very active in FDNY Boxing still lives in Astoria....... Another friend of mine Ed Pospisil was a member of the Fire Patrol & had been in the cellar prior to the collapse & drew a map that was instrumental in ascertaining the correct location to breach a wall & locate the Members in the cellar....He since became a career FF in Hartford Conn .Today is the 46th anniversary of the 23rd St Fire.

"Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows! For heroism, valor and undaunted devotion to duty, we respectfully honor the memory of 12 brave firefighters, who courageously gave their lives in the performance of duty, in the finest traditions of the Fire Service of the City of New York, on October 17, 1966, over a quarter of a century ago." 23rd Street Fire, Frank Cull

Offline 68jk09

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Re: October 17, 1966
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2018, 03:02:42 PM »

The 23rd Street Collapse took the lives of 12 members of the FDNY on October 17, 1966….we remember them today….

On October 17th, 1966, Manhattan Dispatch recorded an alarm from a resident at 7 East 22nd Street for smoke on the 4th floor of a brownstone. Box 0598 was transmitted at 2136 hours. Engine 14, 3 & 16, Ladders 3 & 12, Battalion 6 & Division 3 turn out. Upon arrival, they were confronted with a cellar fire at 7 East 22 Street. Heavy volume of smoke & heat were pushing from the art dealer's cellar & 1st floor. DC Reilly transmitted the All Hands at 2158hrs, Rescue 1, Battalion 7 & Field Comm are on the way. At 2209hrs, Chief Reilly transmits the 2nd Alarm, fire has extended to exposure 2, a 3 story brick 'L' shaped at 940 Broadway and exposure 3, a 5 story brick commercial loft building at 6 East 23 Street.
Engine 18 & Ladder 7, under the direction of Chief Reilly & Higgins were all unaware of the intense fire conditions that were directly below them. Suddenly, without warning, a 20x5 foot section of the rear of the drug store on 23rd Street collapsed, hurling 10 FDNY members to their death in the inferno below. 2 other firemen trapped on the 1st floor by a burst of flame caused by the collapse also were burned to death.
Other than the chauffeur, the only other member of Engine 18 to survive that night was FF John Donovan, who was detailed to check parking violations at fire hydrants in the district. When he discovered E-18 was operating at a 2nd alarm, he grabbed his turnout gear & went. He arrived at Wonder Drug right after the collapse occured. He raced in with Engine 5 & helped push the line into the store. FF Donovan moved up on the line to the nozzle & operated the stream when suddenly he stepped into the void caused by the collapse. As he fell, he was able to clutch the nozzle with 3 fingers of his right hand. He hung suspended over the raging inferno below as his rubber coat started to ignite from the intense heat. All of a sudden, a hand dragged on his collar & another grabbed his left arm & then his shoulders &, badly burned, FF Donovan was removed to the sidewalk. These hands belonged to Lt Rubolph Alberda & FF Vincent Lambert both of L-24.
All attempts were made immediately after the collapse to rescue those trapped in the cellar, but the flames had spread to all floors of 6 E 23 Street, 7 E 22 Street and 940 Broadway. The rapidly spreading fire cause all of the buildings' roofs to collapse. Dept members were ordered out of the buildings and just as they backed out, floor after floor of all 3 buildings crashed down. At 2237hrs, (the time of the collapse), a 3rd alarm was transmitted. 2247hrs, a 4th alarm and 2328hrs, a 5th alarm. It was not declared under control until all of the entombed men had been recovered.
Fire Patrol member Edward Pospicil greatly aided in the search for the members. He observed the members operating before the collapse and was able to draw a map of the location where he last saw them operating. On the basis of the diagram, a wall was breached opposite from where the men were believed to be and the bodies were found very close to the spot indicated on the map.
After the collapse, just as occurred on 9/11, volunteers started to arrive from all over the city.
Throughout the morning of October 18th and into the afternoon, charred remains of these men were taken from the drug store and placed in waiting ambulances to be driven under police escort to Bellevue Hospital Morgue. A similar scene was repeated again and again in the pit of the World Trade Center.

Please remember the sacrifice these members made on this date:

DC Thomas Reilly, Division 3, 53 years of age.
BC Walter Higgins, Bn-7, 46 years of age.
Lt John Finley, L-7, 54 years of age
Lt Joseph Priore, Bn-4, 42 years of age.
FF John Berry, L-7, 31 years of age.
FF James Galanaugh, E-18, 27 years of age.
FF Rudolph Kaminsky, L-7, 33 years of age.
FF Joseph Kelly, E-18, 35 years of age.
FF Carl Lee, L-7, 29 years of age.
FF William McCarron, Div.3 aide, 44 years of age.
FF Bernard Tepper, E-18, 41 years of age
Prob FF Daniel Rey, E-18, 26 years of age.
Also remember the 12 widows, 32 children and the rest of their families on this date.

Offline 68jk09

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Re: October 17, 1966
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2018, 03:27:52 PM »

Offline 68jk09

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Offline STAjo

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Re: October 17, 1966
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2018, 07:50:31 PM »

 Dreadful. God Bless Those Who Serve, and Those Who Mourn.