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Austin, Texas: The Kreisle Building Fire and Firefighter Glass

August 17, 2022 marked the 105th anniversary of the death of Austin Fire Department Firefighter James T. Glass of Engine 6

Incident Date: July 23, 1916
Department: Austin Fire Department (TX)
Number of Line-of-Duty Deaths: 1

Photo credits: © Austin Fire Department/Preston Culver; Austin Fire Museum

Remembering Austin Fire Department’s First Line-of-Duty Death:

 
 

On July 23, 1916, a fire at the three-story Kreisle Building located at Congress Avenue and 4th Street began just after 1:00 pm. Initial reports described fire coming from the rear of the Bell Motor Company; soon afterward, explosions were heard.

The raging fire affected several businesses—and threatened to consume the entire block.

  • The Kreisle Building stored a vast inventory of ammunition and explosives. It also housed a tire company, which was where the fire originated. Through the valiant efforts of firefighters, the fire was brought under control before the flames reached the explosives.
  • A neighboring building, home to the telephone company with over 100 employees, was safely evacuated before part of the roof collapsed. But this left the city of Austin without phone service until repairs could be made.
  • Other adjacent buildings were also damaged in the fire—including a hardware store, seed merchant, plumbing supply, and motor company.

Four firefighters were injured at the scene. An unconscious Firefighter Clarence L. Farris, who had suffered a head injury, was carried to safety from the roof of the telephone building by Firefighter Alex Looney. Firefighter E.L. Tallichet, who had an injured arm himself, sought medical assistance for Firefighter James T. Glass and then returned to fight the fire. Two civilians were also injured: a stereotyper who was helping firefighters raise a ladder, and a teenage boy who was hit by falling glass.

Firefighter Glass, who had been caught under a falling wall and staircase, suffered a crushed spine. After the incident, he lay paralyzed at Brackenridge Hospital for more than a year until his death on August 17, 1917. In memory of his ultimate sacrifice, Glass’s Badge Number “13” was permanently retired. In similar tribute, the Austin Fire Department does not include a Station 13 to this day.

But in 2010, Engine 50 (located at the Austin Fire Department’s Central Station downtown) was re-named Engine 13 in Firefighter Glass’s honor. That same year, it was discovered that Firefighter Glass had been buried in an unmarked grave. Upon learning this, the Austin Fire Museum purchased a headstone that was installed on August 17, 2010, with full Austin Fire Department honors.

Glass was posthumously awarded the Austin Fire Department Medal of Honor.


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 as we share information about these firefighters and their sacrifice.