Firefighter John Hoffman of the Benton Harbor Fire Department, died on September 6, 1896, along with 11 other firefighters, during a wall collapse at the Yore’s Opera House in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Both the St. Joseph Fire Department and the Benton Harbor Fire Department lost firefighters that day. On September 8th, 1896 a huge memorial ceremony was performed at the old Central School yard. A Bronze Sculpture of a Fireman carrying a small child was dedicated in St. Joseph Michigan on May 31, 1898. The statue remains today and is a symbol of the fire departments and all who risk their lives, whether it be as a paid employee or a volunteer fire department member. Another memorial for the Benton Harbor fireman stands in Crystal Springs Cemetery, in the “fireman’s circle”. The cause of this fire was never determined.
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.