Memorial Monday – Chicago Union Stockyards Fire (IL)

Incident Date: December 22, 1910
Department: Chicago Fire Department and the Morris & Company Fire Brigade (IL)
Number of Line-of-Duty Deaths: 23

In the early morning hours of December 22, 1910, an electrical fire broke out in Warehouse 7 at the Nelson Morris & Company, a meat packing and stock company, on South Loomis Street in Chicago, Illinois. As the watchman sounded the alarm, the fire quickly spread out of control. The wooden building was soaked with animal fat and the cured meat that was stored there, was preserved with saltpeter, making the building highly flammable.

Chief Horan responded from home after hearing the second alarm struck.

The fire quickly spread to adjacent buildings. At the height of the incident, over fifty engine companies and seven hook and ladder companies responded. Water supply which was already a critical issue at the stockyards, was compounded when firefighters found the city’s fire hydrants were also shut off to prevent freezing. Attempts to reach the upper floors to ventilate were hampered, with the buildings close together and nearby rail lines, making it hard to get ladders in place.

The warehouse canopy collapsed with several firefighters operating both above and below it, burying dozens in the rubble and flames. Twenty-three firefighters were killed by the falling debris. Among them, Fire Marshal and Chief of the Brigade, James Horan, who had been urging the installation of high pressure water lines in “Packingtown” in the weeks and days prior to the fire.

Firefighters Who Died as a Result of the Collapse:










Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest building collapse in American history, in terms of firefighter fatalities. Although the Texas City Disaster of 1947 killed more firefighters overall, it remains the worst incident in Chicago and Illinois history.


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.