Incident Date: February 5, 1898
Department: Boston Fire Department (MA)
Number of Line-of-Duty Deaths: 6
The Merrimac Street Fire started at the George Bent Bedding Company in the early morning hours of February 5, 1898. Many firefighters were injured on the scene and six made the ultimate sacrifice.
Units who responded on Box 412 arrived to smoke and fire showing from the five-story building and the first arriving chief, Assistant Chief William Cheswell, ordered a second alarm. Hoselines were put in place in interior stairs and on the exterior of the building over ground ladders. Chief Cheswell would order a third alarm shortly thereafter. District Chief John Egan of District 3 arrived on the second alarm and assumed command of interior firefighting operations on the fourth floor. Engine Company 38/39 stretched a line to the fourth floor.
As the water that was helping to put out the fire saturated bedding materials, fabrics, cotton, wood, and other materials inside the building it also added weight to the upper floors. Shortly after 5:00 am, with the bulk of the fire under control, the roof collapsed, which also resulted in the collapse of the other floors. This collapse left many trapped including Chief Egan and the five men of Engine Company 38/39.
Heavy equipment and manpower were ordered to the scene for rescue and recovery efforts. Four men from Engine Company 7: Captain Joseph Garrity, Hoseman Thomas Conroy, Hoseman Philip Doherty, and Hoseman Edward Shea were rescued and transported to local hospital. Lieutenant John McCarthy, of Protective Company 2, was also injured in the collapse.
Later that morning, Chief Egan and Captain James Victory were found alive but later succumbed to their injuries. Hoseman Patrick Disken, Hoseman John Mulhern, Lieutenant George Gottwald and Hoseman William Welch were all located deceased.
The Boston Fire Historical Society notes that “the five firemen from the same company lost at this fire remains the greatest loss of life by a single fire company at the same fire in the history of the Boston Fire Department.”
Killed in the Collapse:
- Boston Fire Historical Society: The Merrimac Street Fire of 1898
- Firerescue1.com: Firefighter remembers 6 responders who died in Boston fire 120 years ago
- FirefighterCloseCalls.com: Remembering 6 Firefighters Killed in Boston 120 Years Ago
- The Boston Globe: District Chief Eagan’s Horse Misses Him
More About Memorial Monday
Memorial Monday is established to remember the sacrifice of firefighters who died in the line of duty before the National Memorial was created in 1981. On the last Monday of every month, a firefighter, or groups of firefighters, will be remembered through information located about the firefighter and their sacrifice.
- Memorial Monday – Texas City Disaster
- Memorial Monday – Bowen-Merrill Bookstore Fire
- Memorial Monday – Merrimac Street Fire
- Memorial Monday – Butte Warehouse Explosion
- Memorial Monday – Louisville Recreation Center Fire
- Memorial Monday – Wichita Commercial Roof Collapse
- Memorial Monday – Sitka Brush Fire/Explosion
- Memorial Monday – Duluth Street Car Crash
- Memorial Monday – Blackwater Fire
- Memorial Monday – Auburn Apparatus Collision
- Memorial Monday – Swanson Office Building Fire
- Memorial Monday – Jass Manufacturing Company Fire
- Memorial Monday – St. Louis Streetcar Collision
- Memorial Monday – Strand Theatre Fire
- Memorial Monday – Tru-Fit Clothing Company Fire
- Memorial Monday – Hubbard Street Fire