Father's Day, Sunday, June 17, 2001
It was a relatively slow day for FDNY till 2:19 PM when a phone alarm came into Queens dispatch that a fire was in 12-22 Astoria Blvd, Long Island General Supply (a hardware store). Units arrived within 5 minutes and gave a 10-75 (working fire). The boy's were making good progress but at 2:48 PM something went wrong. Witnesses on the scene report hearing a small explosion followed by a huge blast. The shock wave from the blast knock down every fire fighter on the street and sending exposure 1 wall onto the sidewalk, right on top of fire fighters venting the building. As members started sifting through the rubble, the chief ordered a second alarm followed almost immediately by a fourth alarm when a radio transmission was received from Brian Fahey from Rescue 4. He was in the basement under tons of collapsed material. "I'm trapped in the basement by the stairs, come get me." Every capable member frantically began removing debris to try and get to Brian and the others. Even with the vast resources of the Department, the task took several hours. The members that were on the sidewalk were quickly recovered. Harry Ford (R4) and John Downing (L163) were removed in traumatic arrest and brought to Elmhurst Hospital. Their injuries too severe. Members still were trying to get to Brian while others were trying to put out the fire. The fire went into the evening. The fire was being fueled by some of the flammables in the building. After about 4 hours they finally reached the basement, but again, it was too late.
Hotel Vendome, Saturday, June 17, 1972
On June 17th, 1972, a typical routine day was unfolding for the Jakes in the Boston Fire Department. At 14:35 hours, Box 1571 was received at Boston Fire Alarm Office. It would be the first of four alarms required to extinguish an intense fire at the former Hotel Vendome on Commonwealth Avenue at Dartmouth Street, City of Boston, Massachusetts. It took nearly three hours to contain the blaze. The four alarm fire required a compliment of 16 engine companies, 5 ladder companies, 2 aerial towers and 1 heavy rescue company, with all companies operating with a full complement of personnel staffing. Following extensive and strenuous suppression operations, the BFD commenced routine overhaul operation. Then, at 17:28 hours, without warning, all five floors of a 40 by 45 foot section southeast corner of the building collapsed, burying a ladder truck and 17 firefighters beneath a two-story pile of brick, mortar, plaster, wood and debris. More than any other event in the three hundred year history of the Boston Fire Department, the Vendome tragedy exemplifies the risk intrinsic to the firefighting profession and the accompanying courage required in the performance of duty. Nine firefighters were killed on that day, eight more injured; eight women widowed, twenty-five children lost their fathers; a shocked city mourned before the sympathetic eyes of the entire nation.
The Hotel Vendome fire and the Nine Line-of-duty deaths, two Company Officers and seven firefighters
• Lieutenant THOMAS J. CARROLL, E-32.
• Lieutenant JOHN E. HANBURY, JR., L-13.
• Firefighter THOMAS W. BECKWITH, E-32.
• Firefighter JOSEPH E. BOUCHER, JR., E-22.
• Firefighter CHARLES E. DOLAN, L-13.
• Firefighter JOHN E. JAMESON, E-22.
• Firefighter RICHARD B. MAGEE, E-33.
• Firefighter PAUL J. MURPHY, E-32.
• Firefighter JOSEPH P. SANIUK, L-13.
Built in 1871 and massively expanded in 1881, the Hotel Vendome was a luxury hotel located in Boston’s Back Bay, just north of Copley Square. During the 1960s, the Vendome suffered four small fires. In 1971, the year of the original building’s centennial, the Vendome was purchased. The new owners opened a restaurant called Cafe Vendome on the first floor, and began renovating the remaining hotel into condominiums and a shopping mall. Although the cause of the original fire was not known, the subsequent collapse was attributed to the failure of an overloaded seven-inch steel column whose support had been weakened when a new duct had been cut beneath it, exacerbated by the extra weight of water used to fight the fire on the upper floors.