The Waldbaum Fire Collapse FDNY 1978 Remembrance

The Waldbaum’s Supermarket Fire and Collapse FDNY 1978

by Christopher J. Naum, SFPE and

The Waldbaum Super market fire, Brooklyn, New York occurred on August 2, 1978, thrity two years ago. Six firefighters died in the line of duty when the roof of a burning Brooklyn supermarket collapsed, plunging 12 firefighters into the flames. The fire began in a hallway near the compressor room as crews were renovating the store, and quickly escalated to a fourth-alarm. Less than an hour after the fire was first reported, nearly 20 firefighters were on the roof when the central portion gave way.

The FDNY members killed in the Waldbaum’s fire included:

  • Lt. James E. Cutillo, Battalion 33
  • Firefighter Charles S. Bouton, Ladder Company 156
  • Firefighter Harold F. Hastings, Battalion 42
  • Firefighter James P. McManus, Ladder Company 153
  • Firefighter William O’Connor, Ladder Company 156
  • Firefighter George S. Rice, Ladder Company 153

For the complete posting with diagrams, photos and a memorial video clip head over to, HERE

Take the time to learn about the FDNY Walbaum’s fire, its history repeating significance as a major fire service LODD event, the lessons learned from the Hackensack Ford Fire (July 2, 1988) and other related case studies that can be found on the NIOSH, USFA and NFPA web sites.

Look at your buildings within your response areas and jurisdiction. Understand how they’re built and more importantly how they are affected by the exposure and impingement of fire and its byproducts. Understand key building performance indicators and appropriate strategic and tactical actions based upon building profiles, occupancies, fire loading, construction features and fire service resources.

Take the time to honor the brave brother firefighters from FDNY who made the supreme sacrifice thirty two years ago, and gave a legacy to learn from in this and in future fire service generations.


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