Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Barnett Building, Denver - 1932 
  • On Feb. 1, 1930, about a dozen inmates attempted to escape the state penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado, after a fire broke out in cell house No. 4. [Associated Press dispatch in Southeast Missourian newspaper] The fire destroyed the tailor shop and the carpenter shop. Firemen from Florence provided mutual aid to the Canon City Fire Department. The National Guard was also summoned to patrol the streets near the prison.
  • On Aug. 28, 1930, chlorine gas escaped from a railroad tank car and drifted into the Denver Fire Clay Co. plant. Twenty-three people, including 13 Denver firemen, were overcome by the yellow fumes. [Associated Press story in Lewiston Sun of Maine] The firemen weren't equipped with gas masks. The tank car contained 16 tons of liquid chlorine. J.W. Gibbs, a plant worker, donned a mask to close a leaking valve on the tank car. Physicians said the victims were subject to pneumonia.
  • On Dec. 30, 1930, in Rock Springs, Wyoming, "Firemen rushed into J. H. Cox's blazing shooting gallery, only to rush right out again. Eleven ducks and seventeen turkeys intended as prizes to marksmen protested loudly as they roasted, but the firemen were busy dodging 4,000 rounds of exploding rifle ammunition." [Associated Press in Dallas Morning News]
  • On March 17, 1931, a bomb destroyed the North Denver home of bootlegger Pete Carlino. Denver firemen combed the ruins for bodies. There were no casualties. Carlino, his wife and seven children were away. Carlino had attempted to extend his operation to Denver from Pueblo. In retaliation, gunmen had ambushed Carlino on a Denver street in February. He survived. On May 8, 1931, Carlino's brother, Sam, and another gangster were shot to death in North Denver. Pete Carlino finally met a violent end on Sept. 10 or 11 while traveling from Denver to Canon City. His body was found on a rural road. It was riddled with bullets. In the aftermath of the Carlino slayings, North Denver was rocked by a series of mysterious bombings on the night of Sept. 28, 1931. The original bombing, however, was determined to be a deliberate attempt by the Carlino gang to collect insurance money. Three gang members were convicted of the crime. Pete Carlino also faced charges and was out on bail when he died. [Associated Press, United Press]
  • On Feb. 17, 1932, fire broke out at the Barnett Building at 16th and Larimer streets in downtown Denver. Six firefighters and a watchman suffered burns and smoke inhalation in harsh conditions. Frozen hose spray glazed streets, trolley lines and fire crews while flames roared from above. "Fire Chief Healy, veteran smoke eater and one of the best known firefighters in the country, narrowly escaped death," the Associated Press reported in that day's Evening Gazette of Berkeley, California.
  • On April 12, 1932, a bomb exploded at Paradise Cleaning and Dyeing in Denver after the plant's owners refused to pay protection money to gangsters. Joseph Bitman, a part owner of the plant, told police he had been approached by representatives of the "protective association" and also received threats over the telephone. [United Press story in Berkeley Daily Gazette of California.] "Highly inflammable cleaning solution had been poured over the floor of the plant in an apparent effort to destroy the entire building" [United Press] "In some manner, the explosion failed to set off the cleaning fluid." Police said the bombing may have been a warning to others.
  • On May 21, 1933, an fire in a coal seam spread to the surface of Carbon Mountain near Durango, Colorado. [Associated Press story in Lewiston Morning Tribune, Idaho, May 21, 1933]
  • On Aug. 2-3, 1933, three to nine inches of rain in 9 hours caused Castlewood Dam on Cherry Creek to fail; seven people died in Denver. [National Weather Service] "Denver police and firemen with sirens going full blast sped through the Country club residential district warning everyone to flee from their homes in the lowland area. Emergency ambulance corps took invalids from many homes." [AP report in Billings Gazette]
  • On June 28, 1934, an explosion and fire destroyed three buildings in midtown Cheyenne, Wyoming. Firefighters recovered the bodies of three women from the ruins. The force of the blast shattered windows a block away. [United Press report in Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa, June 28, 1934]
  • On Nov. 30, 1934, Andrew Mahon, assistant Denver fire chief, was killed when a brick wall collapsed at a fire at the Midwest Trunk & Bag Co., 1524 15th St., in the city's downtown warehouse district. [Associated Press] About a dozen other firefighters were "hurtled from ladders" into the "furnace of flames" and pulled from the debris "by heroic comrades." [AP] "Cries of horror went up from the spectators and firemen dropped hose lines to race to the aid of the trapped men." The fire also gutted the Colorado Implement Co., located next to the blazing trunk factory. [AP dispatches in San Jose News of California and Morning Tribune of Lewiston, Idaho.]
  • On May 20, 1935, fire broke out at the Casanova, night club of the famous Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. "Flimsy draperies and hanging decorations in the Casanova went up like tinder, pouring smoke and gas fumes through the hotel." [United Press stories in Pittsburgh Press, Berkeley Daily Gazette on California] "Some of the guests rushed to the windows and threatened to jump. Firemen produced nets, but prevented any from jumping by calling to them to remain in their rooms." Several guests were carried down ladders by firemen. The Casanova, itself, was demolished along with musical instruments belonging to the "Husk O'Hare Orchestra." Fire Chief John Healy said the fire was caused by "an explosion of gas fumes."
  • On Aug. 26, 1935, Warren Cramer, 17, son of a prominent dentist from Oakland, California, confessed to setting 20 fires across Denver in five days, including blazes at a Catholic cathedral, two Catholic churches and City Hall. [United Press story in Telegraph-Herald of Dubuque, Iowa] At first, police had suspected a "religious fanatic" or "Nazi sympathizer. Cramer used a stolen bicycle to move from fire to fire. He went onto an "eight-year career of thievery, arson and jail breaking" and was executed in California's gas chamber at San Quentin on May 14, 1943, for the slaying of Ernest Saxton, a San Francisco drug store clerk. [United Press story in Bend Bulletin of Oregon]
  • 1937: Collins Opera House burned in Creede, Colorado. []
  • On Aug. 21, 1937, the Blackwater forest fire killed 15 firefighters near Cody, Wyoming
  • On Jan. 24, 1939, fire reduced the Cabin Hotel in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to ashes in less than an hour, killing Merle Sweet, 71,and Mildred Keltner, 24. The fire started in the south wing of the 100-room hotel, near chimneys leading to the furnace room and kitchen. [Steamboat Pilot, Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection]
  • On Jan. 30, 1939, three truckloads of dynamite exploded at the Colorado Portland Cement Company plant, six miles north of Fort Collins, instantly killing two workers and injuring four others. [International News Service story in Telegraph-Herald of Dubuque, Iowa] The dynamite "was being thawed" for use in a quarry near the cement plant.
  • On March 8, 1939, fire struck the planing mill at the Durango Lumber Co. in Durango, Colorado, and burned for five hours. [Oak Creek Times, Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection]
  • On Aug. 12, 1939, rescuers used acetylene torches to free victims of the collision of two passenger trains at a crossover that killed two people and injured more than 50 others in south Denver. [Associated Press story in Telegraph-Herald of Dubuque, Iowa.] A Denver, Rio Grande and Western train slammed into a coach on the Santa Fe's "Navaho." The crossover was located a block south of the Alameda Avenue overpass. A coroner's jury later ruled faulty brakes prevent Denver Rio Grande engineer William Meade from stopping his train.
  • On Dec. 27, 1939, the Anna Dora Opera House burned in Delta, Colorado.

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