Incident Date: April 9, 1894
Department: Milwaukee Fire Department (WI)
Number of Line-of-Duty Deaths: 9
In the early morning hours on April 9, 1894, a fire broke out at the Davidson Theatre and the alarm was sounded when flames were seen coming from the roof. Milwaukee firefighters responded to fight the blaze.
The theatre, the finest in Milwaukee and one of the most elaborate in the country, was on the ground floor and the Hotel Davidson on the upper floor. Guests had packed the hotel but were quickly evacuated.
Pipeman Alphines “Allie” Ries, of Engine. 3, was climbing a ladder in the rear of the building. Before he reached the roof, the ladder fell two stories, taking him with it; he later died from his injuries. Not long after, shortly after 5:00 am, a roof collapse sent at least twenty firefighters into the burning theatre below. Firefighters worked to extinguish the fire and rescue their trapped comrades. However, the theatre was packed with scenery and costumes, hampered rescue efforts, and added fuel to the fire.
Eight firefighters would be recovered from the building including: Assistant Chief August Jannsen, Pipeman Frederick “Fritz” Koschmieder of Chemical 2, Pipeman Thomas Morgan of Engine 1, Lieutenant James Freeman and Pipeman John Winney of Engine 4, Lieutenant Frank McGurk of Engine 14, Captain Archie Campbell of Engine 17, and Lieutenant John Farrell of Truck 1.
This incident was the largest loss of firefighters in the line of duty in the Milwaukee Fire Department’s history.
Firefighters Who Died at the Fire:
- Milwaukee Pays Tribute to Fallen Firefighters at Special Memorial Ceremony
- City of Milwaukee Fallen Firefighters
- Wisconsin Fire & EMS Memorial: Milwaukee, WI Davidson Theatre Fire, Apr 1894
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.
- Simultaneous Chicago Fires: Remembering Firefighter Joseph P. Carone and Six Injured Firefighters
- Inaja Fire: Cleveland National Forest
- Remembering New York City’s 23rd Street Fire
- Benton Harbor, MI: The Yore Opera House Fire
- Austin, Texas: The Kreisle Building Fire and Firefighter Glass
- Chicago World’s Fair: Cold Storage Fire
- Memorial Monday – Hotel Vendome Fire (MA)
- Memorial Monday – Barson’s Deli Fire (PA)
- Memorial Monday – Quackenbush Warehouse Fire (NJ)
- Memorial Monday – New Haven Apparatus Crash (CT)
- Memorial Monday – Wilmington Apparatus Crash (DE)
- Memorial Monday – Chicago Union Stockyards Fire (IL)
- Memorial Monday – The Loop Fire (CA)
- Memorial Monday – Boston Toy Factory Fire (MA)
- Memorial Monday – Baltimore Warehouse Fire (MD)
- 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