Memorial Monday – Davidson Theatre Fire (WI)

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:





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.