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


Elitch Gardens - 1944
  • On Feb. 4, 1941, the boiler of a Denver & Rio Grande Western locomotive exploded in a railroad yard in southwest Denver, injuring 25 people. [Associated Press] Denver firefighter Ray Shaffer said: "We found people wondering around over a whole square block, so dazed they didn't know what they were doing. We just put them in ambulances and automobiles and sent them to hospitals."
  • On May 19, 1941, fire destroyed the shops of the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Cheyenne Fire Chief Ed Taylor said: "There is no doubt in my mind but that the fire was deliberately set or had a hell of a lot of help." [Associated Press story in Lewiston Morning Tribune of Idaho] Soldiers from Fort Warren assisted city firemen and Union Pacific crews in the four-hour fight. The fire destroyed the mill and wheel shops, a grease reclamation plant and five cabooses. Flames spread swiftly over the 1-1/2 blocks. Union Pacific President William M. Jeffers agreed with the fire chief that the blaze was of incendiary origin. [International News Service story in Deseret News of Salt Lake City]
  • On Oct. 5, 1942, fire struck the Aladdin Theatre in Denver. [DFD]
  • On Jan. 8, 1943, fire destroyed the hanger and eight aircraft at Walker Field, municipal airport of Grand Junction, Colorado. [Steamboat Pilot, Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection]
  • On Jan. 21, 1943, fire destroyed 23 barracks for prisoners of war at Camp Carson in Colorado Springs. [AP story in Telegraph-Herald of Dubuque, Iowa] Colorado Springs firemen stopped the blaze from spreading to a warehouse.
  • On June 27, 1943, railroad cars carrying World War Two munitions caught fire and exploded at Grand Junction, Colorado, and showered part of the western end of the city with shells, shrapnel and debris for several hours. It was too dangerous for firefighters to get close enough to play hose lines on the flaming rail cars. Several people were injured, including Charles Downing, the city's fire chief. Downing was standing at the corner of a warehouse when an exploding shell shattered his arm. He walked about two blocks for help. Surgeons amputated his arm at the hospital. They also administered two pints of blood. [Associated Press story in St. Petersburg Times of Florida] A separate dispatch [International News Service] said authorities "sought clues linking a possible saboteur ring," but officials of the Denver Rio Grand and Western Railroad suggested an overheated axle or brakes were the mostly likely source of the fire. [AP] German prisoners of war were camped in the Grand Junction area during World War Two.
  • On Sept. 20, 1943, near Rollinsville, Colorado, three members of the Denver Fire Department died in a fire and roof collapse in railroad tunnel. [Associated Press] The flames burned away the tunnel's supporting timbers. The dead firemen - Vernon Parrish, Jim Williams and Jack Kennedy - were part of a team sent to provide mutual aid at the blaze, about 27 miles west of Denver. The fire started in brush and spread to the 1,800-foot tunnel of the Denver & Salt Lake Railway. The bodies of Williams and Kennedy were buried in the debris for weeks. The body of Parrish, assistant superintendent of the Denver Fire Department shops, was located about 100 feet inside the tunnel. [AP]
  • On Sept. 26, 1943, a four-engined B-24 Liberator bomber crashed in a residential section in south Denver, killing at least seven airmen. [Associated Press] The aircraft was based at Lowry Field in Denver. It struck a wooden garage adjacent to a wide vacant lot. Flames scorched nearby houses. Homer La Pee, of 2508 South Downing Street, witnessed the crash from his backyard. He said: "When it was directly overhead, the pilot must have noticed the vacant lot because it looked to me like he was trying to pancake a landing. It all happened within a split second. The plane crashed and exploded. A sheet of flame shot up about 60 feet and seemed to fall over the houses. The heat was so intense that you couldn't get close. I noticed wreckage flying through the air over the front of the plane within a split second after the crash." [AP story in Daily Tribune of Greeley, Colorado]
  • On July 16, 1944, a fire "swept through a darkened 'tunnel of love'" at the Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver. Six people died. [United Press] The "Old Mill" boat ride featured oil-painted canvas to recreate scenes from around the world. The fire led to changes in Denver's municipal fire code. Four of the dead were "soldiers and their wives" and "the other two dead were park employes who rushed into the tunnel to rescue the occupants." [United Press story in The New York Times]
  • On June 25, 1945, the Denver Fire Department responded to a fire at the military's Rocky Mountain Arsenal, northeast of the city. [Associated Press] AP described the incident as a "conflagration" in "a section" of the arsenal. [AP story in St. Petersburg Times]
  • On Dec. 14, 1945, fire destroyed the Hotel Glenwood in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. In the aftermath of the fire, Police Chief Charles Wells was quoted as saying as many as 15 people were missing. The number of casualties was much lower. [Associated Press and United Press stories in Tuscaloosa News of Alabama; AP story in Miami News] The four-story brick building was gutted; the front wall collapsed into Main Street. The hotel was built in the late 19th Century. Firefighters played water on the nearby Foster Hospital to prevent the flames from spreading. It "got pretty hot for them in the hospital," said hotel manager Charles McCarthy, who discovered the fire in a shop in the hotel.
  • On Oct. 8, 1946, a United Air Lines DC-4 "Mainliner" crashed on approach to the airport at Cheyenne, Wyoming. "About 30 persons were out of the plane and walking around when we arrived," Cheyenne Fire Chief Ralph Garnett. Two people were found dead in the wreckage. About 10 others were injured. The crash occurred on the Fort Warren military installation, 1-1/2 miles northwest of the airport. The aircraft missed an Army ammunition warehouse by 100 yards, Sheriff Norbert Tuck said. [Associated Press story in Spokane Daily Chronicle, Washington, Oct. 8, 1946]
  • On Nov. 27, 1946, fifteen firefighters were "overcome" at fire in the Fort Collins business district. [United Press story in Milwaukee Journal]
  • On May 31, 1947, a natural gas explosion destroyed a two-story, brick apartment building at 35 West Dakota Ave., Denver, and killed three people, including Gertrude Rowan, 60, and her grandson, Richard Rowan, 11. [Associated Press story in Spokane Daily Chronicle.] Rescue efforts were slowed by gas leaking from the timber and brick rubble. "The entire building went up in the air and settled down on the foundation," said Wanda Ough of Granby, Colorado.
  • On July, 17, 1947, the Denver Fire Department helped Army firefighters avert disaster at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal by controlling a fire that seared storage tanks holding deadly chlorine gas. [Associated Press] "We'd have been powerless if those tanks exploded," Denver Fire Chief Allie Feldman said. The fire started in coal bunkers at a powerhouse near the chlorine tanks. [AP story in Evening Independent of St. Petersburg, Florida]
  • On Feb. 16, 1948, four men were injured fighting a fire in downtown Durango, Colorado. The fire was preceded by an explosion. Flames rose 80 feet. Two large buildings were burned out. Other smaller structures  were damaged. Mutual aid responded from Cortez, Colorado and Aztec, New Mexico. (Associated Press in The Deseret News)
  • On April 14, 1948, fire destroyed an entire business block in Laramie, Wyoming. Firefighters from Fort Collins, Colorado, joined Wyoming fire crews - from Cheyenne, Rawlins and Fort Francis E. Warren - in providing mutual aid to the Laramie Fire Department. [Associated Press story in Amarillio Daily News of Texas]
  • On Aug. 1, 1948, a four-alarm fire struck the Ace Box Co., 2950 Platte River Drive, Denver. The plant was the scene of major fires in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as well. [Denver Firefighters Museum]

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