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


Central Block, Pueblo - 1953
Photo: Pueblo Fire Museum
  • On Jan. 17, 1950, a wildfire flashed across Camp Carson near Colorado Springs, claiming the lives of eight soldiers and a teenage volunteer fighting the blaze. Winds of 60 mph fueled flames that started near the Broadmoor Hotel.
  • On June 20, 1950, Denver firefighters rescued James Sisler, 14, who slipped off a small bridge into "heavy black muck." [Associated Press story in Spokane Daily Chronicle of Washington] "When he tried to climb out, he slipped in further. The more he struggled, the more desperate his plight." Denver police attempted to rescue him with a rope fastened under his armpits. When that didn't work, firemen crawled out on a ladder and freed him.
  • On Aug. 26, 1950, fire swept through a Denver hotel at 17th and Market streets, killing three people and injured nine others. Military police officers on patrol sounded the alarm. A cigarette apparently caused the blaze, said Denver Fire Chief Allie Feldman. [Associated Press] The Denver Police Department directed all available ambulances to the scene of the fire. [AP story printed in the Daily Inter Lake of Kalispell, Montana] A separate report [United Press in Daily Star of Windsor, Ontario] said some of the hotel residents jumped from windows.
  • On Feb. 17, 1951, a fire and explosion at the downtown Denver Athletic Club claimed the lives of three residents and a maid. Newspapers across the country published a wire photo of firemen raising a ladder to a man hanging from a window in an icy alley at the club. Another man, seen in the photo waving his hat from a nearby window, wasn't as lucky. He succumbed before the firemen could reach him. The Denver Athletic Club blaze "roared out of control before we got there," Denver Assistant Fire Chief James Kain said. The flames started in the gymnasium during preparations for a Valentine's party. Investigators blamed the fire on an electrical short. Scores of people were trapped on the upper floors of the building. Pumper 1, Truck 1, Truck 6, Wagon 2, Pumper 4 and Squad 2 responded to the initial alarm. The second alarm was transmitted four minutes later. Firefighter Karl Loose suffered a heart attack at the fire. [United Press, Associated Press, Denver Firefighters Museum] 
  • The next day, Feb. 18, 1951, a furnace room fire destroyed the Wolfhurst Saddle Club near Denver and killed dishwasher Tami Kaku, who was trapped inside the club, and cook Robert Snell, who escaped but went back into the burning building. The fashionable saddle club was once home of mining magnate Tom Walsh. [United Press in Daily Star of Windsor, Ontario]
  • On Dec. 3, 1951 a disabled B-29 bomber trying to reach Lowry Air Force Base crashed into a row of "swank residential homes" in Denver killing eight airmen. [Associated Press] Six airmen survived, including the pilot. Five houses were damaged; four of them demolished. The bomber "seemed to hit the treetops and just exploded," said Mrs. S.G. Brooks, who witnessed the accident from a knoll several miles away. [AP story in Post Reporter, Idaho Falls] 
  • On Oct. 19, 1952, an explosion destroyed a Denver and Rio Grand steam locomotive seven miles south of Littleton, Colorado, killing three railroad men and a railroad buff. It took rescuers four hours to extricate their bodies. [United Press]
  • On Oct. 26, 1952, fire broke out at the Hungarian Flour Mills in Denver and burned for days. All off-duty Denver firefighters were recalled. Seventy firefighters sought treatment at Denver General Hospital while the flames burned. [Denver Firefighters Museum]
  • On Aug. 29, 1953, a fire and collapse destroyed the Central Block in downtown Pueblo. The flames killed O.G. Pope , a retired lawyer who maintained an office and apartment in the 5-story office building. Firefighters heard him scream but were unable to reach him. [Associated Press story in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, a Canadian newspaper] The fire started in a second-story hotel, ignited a paint store below and then spread to office building, which then collapsed. Across from the original blaze, heat, smoke and water damaged a furniture store and the headquarters of the Southern Colorado Power Co. [Pueblo Fire Museum] 
  • On Dec. 25, 1954, an explosion in a feed store rocked the calm of Christmas morning in the southwest section of Denver. [Associated Press story in Daily Times of Florence, Alabama] Franklin Soper, assistant Denver fire chief, attributed the explosion to a natural gas leak. The blast hurled concrete 200 yards into the South Platte River, damaged three other buildings and shattered windows.
  • On March 15, 1955, fire roared through the historic Johnson Hotel in Laramie, Wyoming, and claimed six lives. [United Press story in News-Press of St. Joseph, Missouri] Other guests were injured jumping from the windows of the second-floor residential hotel, which was built in 1900. Among the dead was retired rodeo rider Ed "Boots" Smith, who toured Europe in the early 1900s as a member of the Buffalo Bill Cody and Gandy Brothers Wild West shows. [Associated Press story in the News and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina] The building was of frame construction with brick veneer. Laramie Fire Chief Blake Fanning said there were about 25-30 people in the hotel. [AP story in Modesto Bee] The fire apparently started in the lobby. When fire crews arrived, men were dangling from the hotel. Survivor Alfred Warner said: "The stairs were a sheet of flame. I climbed out the window and hung onto the hotel sign."
  • On April 5, 1955, a fire at the Oriental Refinery in Commerce City, Colorado, caused fatal injuries to Harold Hubbard, a volunteer firefighter with the South Adams County Fire Department. Five other firefighters sustained lesser injuries in the refinery fire.
  • On April 16, 1955, Aurora firefighters rescued David Mark Counterman, 2, who fell to the bottom of an 18-foot well shaft that measured just 18 inches in diameter. Workers with heavy equipment bored a parallel shaft to reach the boy. Firefighters lowered into the rescue shaft cut through dirt and rock to pull the boy to safety. Oxygen pumped into the well sustained little David during the four-hour drama. "He screamed all the time he was in the hole," said George Moorehead, fire chief of Aurora. "But the minute we laid hands on him, he gave us a feeble smile and stopped. He knew he was OK," Moorehead said. [Associated Press story in Sunday News-Press of St. Joseph, Missouri]
  • On June 1, 1956, a B25 bomber departing Lowry Air Force Base "cartwheeled between homes " in southeast Denver, killing four of the eight people aboard the aircraft. [Associated Press] The bomber stopped at Lowry to refuel. [AP story in Daily Times-News of Burlington, North Carolina]
  • On June 23, 1957, fire destroyed the Holy Comforter Chapel at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Denver. [Associated Press story in the Sarasota Journal of Florida] 
  • On Sept. 3, 1959, a leaking natural gas main caused an explosion at a liquor store in downtown Denver. Carl Reily, 61, a clerk, was killed; 14 others were injured. [Associated Press story in Youngstown Vindicator of Ohio] The explosion also damaged a bar and a hotel.

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