On July 10, 1893, Lieutenant Charles Purvis, of the Chicago Fire Department, along with twelve other firefighters died in the line of duty while fighting the White City Fire of 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair. The Cold Storage Building was one of the largest buildings at the fair and was a technological marvel of 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, making ice, keeping meat cold and boasting an indoor ice-skating rink. Like many buildings at the Fair, the Cold Storage building was erected quickly with little concern for safety. On July 10th, the alarm sounded at 1:30 p.m. when a small fire at the top of the flue stack was spotted. fire erupted in the building killing 17 people in total in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of onlookers. The responders came from the World’s Fair fire service and the local fire station, which was only a few blocks away.
This firefighter line of duty fatality occurred before the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial was built in Emmitsburg, Maryland. While this firefighter has not been officially honored at the Memorial site, there are plans to do so when resources are available.