News

Memorial Monday – Quackenbush Warehouse Fire (NJ)

Incident Date: March 12,1938
Department: Paterson Fire Department (NJ)
Number of Line-of-Duty Deaths: 5

At 1:58 pm on March 12, 1938, the general alarm was sounded for a fire in the warehouse of the Quackenbush Department Store, which was located on Prospect Street, directly behind the store. The store was connected to the warehouse by a tunnel and a second-floor bridge. The warehouse was in two three-story buildings, which contained furniture, bedding, upholstery, and other housewares packed in excelsior. The adjoining building was filled with refrigerators. Arriving firefighters reported heavy yellow smoke and visibility of less than five feet.

The fire grew to 4 alarms. At the height of the fire, every piece of fire apparatus in the city, 13 engines and 3 trucks, and firefighters and units from neighboring communities were on the scene.

While the fire was later brought under control, a wall collapse claimed the lives of five Paterson firefighters including Deputy Chief Sweeney and four from Engine Company 5. Members of Engine 5 included Captain William Devenport, and firefighters William Lynch, Matthew O’Neill, and Louis Rodesky. The crew from Engine 5 were in the process of trying to pull down, the very section of wall that collapse on them.

Thomas Schofield who was in the alley picking up hose and Driver/Engineer Ralph Miller were the only survivors from Engine 5.

Later in a heartbreaking return to headquarters, Engineer Ralph Miller arrived and was met by Chief Coyle. Miller saluted Chief Coyle, announcing “Number 5 returning back to quarters.” The Chief bowed his head and wept. Miller cried, “I’m all alone, Chief.”

Firefighters Who Died in the Collapse:

 

 

 

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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.