Incident Date: September 2, 1888
Department: Baltimore City Fire Department (MD)
Number of Line-of-Duty Deaths: 7
What proved to be the most terrible event that has happened in the department began when Box No. 526 sounded at 4:24 am. The 5-story brick double building occupied by E.A. Prior & Company, 107-109 South Sharp Street was afire. The warehouse was 217 feet deep through to Cypress alley, and flames were coming out of the lower floor, front and back, and heavy smoke from all the upper windows. Second and third alarms were sounded.
Assistant Chief Engineer Thomas F. Murphy and the members of Engine Company No. 7, and Hook & Ladder Company No. 2 hastened to the top floor of the next door building, No. 105, prepared to cut a hole through the wall so that a hose pipe could throw a stream of water into the burning building.
Outside, Captain John J. Ledden, (Engine-2), noticed the wall of 107 sway a little. He shouted up the stairway “Get out quick,” and the men came running down. Chief Murphy looked up at the top of the building and said “Captain, if this wall falls, it won’t hurt the next door building,” and he ordered the firemen back to their assignments. The Chief conversed for a moment, then started up the stairway, when suddenly the wall fell. Captain Ledden grabbed the Chief, pulling him outside just as the buildings came tumbling down, carrying every floor to the cellar, and with it nine of our brave firemen.
As the dust cleared away, Ladderman John W. Kelly was seen on the cornice above the doorway, alive but badly bruised. All available men started to dig into the ruins for the buried firemen, when a feeble voice was heard to say “Save Me!” It was Ladderman August Eck, who was pinned in a horrible position with his feet burning, but after some hard work, he was freed, alive.
Encouraged by the miraculous escape from death of the two men, the rescuers tugged at the rubble all the harder, but alas, the bodies of seven comrades were recovered.
Firefighters Who Died in the Collapse:
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 – Gulf Oil Refinery Fire (PA)
- Memorial Monday – Kingman Explosion (AZ)
- Memorial Monday – St. Louis Apparatus Crash (MO)
- Memorial Monday – Uptown Shelby Explosion (NC)
- 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