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


Fire at F.J. LeGrue & Co., Denver - 1978
  • On Feb. 5, 1970, explosives destroyed or damaged 42 school buses in a Denver parking lot as the city moved to racially integrate its public schools. Acting Fire Chief Dan Cronin said the explosives were placed under the fuels tanks. Workers were able to move some of the buses during the fire. [United Press International story in Pittsburgh Press]
  • On Jan.17, 1971, five children - aged 3 months to 9 years - died in a house fire in Denver. They were trapped in an upstairs bedroom of a 2 1/2-story clap-board dwelling. Their father, Merle Adams, escaped. The children were identified as Timmy, 9, Michael, 8, Steve, 6, Chris, 2, and Debbie, 3 months. [Combined UPI, AP wire dispatch in Deseret News of Salt Lake City.] Neighbor Max Tafoya said Mr. Adams father ran into his house: "He was crying 'My children! My children!' and I ran out and the whole house looked like it was on fire. I could hear the children screaming upstairs and ran to get onto the back porch but the heat and flames were so bad I couldn't get in." Denver firefighters found the children huddled on two of three beds in the room, apparently dead of smoke inhalation.
  • 1972: Fire at Lowe Opera House in Julesburg, Colorado; constructed 1917. []
  • On Feb. 21, 1972, Aurora firefighters rescued James Harr, 18, and Rick Putnam, 17, from an underground air vent at an abandoned Titan I missile silo on the Lowry Air Force bombing range. Harr sustained "internal injuries when the pressurized steel door to the air vent, five feet in diameter, closed on him as he crawled through it." [United Press International story in News-Sentinel of Lodi, California] Putnam was unhurt. Other boys drove to a farmhouse for help.
  • On Feb. 28, 1972, Lakewood firefighter Calvin Clark was electrocuted on a public service call. Clark was attempting to rescue a cat from a utility pole, [West Metro Fire Rescue Facebook]
  • On March 26, 1972, a fire in a brick home near Aurora, Colorado, killed five family members: Wilber Routon, 40, his wife Janet, 36, stepson Ronald McReyhew, 18, and daughters, Susan 10, and Joyce, 6. [United Press International report printed in Williamson Daily News of West Virginia]
  • On Sept. 26, 1973, an explosion trapped workers atop a grain elevator in Loveland, Colorado. Authorities summoned a helicopter to help rescue workers from the roof of the Big Thompson Mill and Elevator. The explosion destroyed a section of the "Big T" structure from levels three to seven. The section measured 25-feet in width. The Loveland Fire Department received mutual aid from the fire departments in Berthound and Fort Collins. [Loveland Fire Rescue Authority archives]
  • On April 10, 1974, fire killed three people at the three-story Lewiston Hotel, a lodging for transients in downtown Denver. [Associated Press] About a dozen other were injured, suffering burns and smoke inhalation. Denver firefighters used ladders to rescue residents, said Jack Lynch, division fire chief. Two people jumped. The hotel's fire doors were "blocked open." [AP story in Evening Independent of St. Petersburg, Florida]
  • On April 10, 1974, a fire that started in a feed mill destroyed 2 1/2 blocks of Grand Junction, south of the main business district. Grand Junction Fire Chief R.T. Mantlo said the fire was apparently caused by an electrical short because a witness reported "considerable arcing" in a transformer station at the back of the mill. [United Press International story in Bangor Daily News of Maine] The wind whipped up the flames and two firemen suffered minor injuries.
  • On Aug. 24, 1974, Durango, Colorado, firefighter Nick Parks III and police Corporal Gale Emerson died when wall collapsed at a raging fire on Main Avenue, according to the Associated Press and Durango Herald. "The whole thing came down without warning," said an official quoted by the AP. Six buildings were destroyed; a seventh was damaged.
  • On Dec. 18, 1974, Wilbur Unruh, a firefighter at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, was among five people who died in the explosion of a jet fuel storage tank that was being cleaned, according to a history of the military facility. The explosion caused a 50-foot crater.   
  • On Aug. 7, 1975, Continental Airlines Flight 426 crashed on takeoff at Denver's Stapleton International Airport. There were no fatalities among the 134 people aboard although several suffered serious injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled that windshear was the probable cause of the crash. The Boeing 727 reached about 150-200 feet when it started sinking. The pilot failed to regain control. The jetliner struck the right shoulder of Runway 35L, slid for 2,000 feet and came to rest at an airport road. Airport firefighters flooded the engines with foam.
  • On Oct. 2, 1975, fire broke out at Protex Industrial Supply in Denver. [DFD]
  • On Christmas Eve 1975, the City of Denver demoted 60 fire captains to lieutenant to stay within a $17 million budget. Mike Vitry, a demoted fire officer, ridiculed Mayor Bill McNichols. "I hope Ebenezer McNichols has just as nice and happy a Christmas as I'm having now," Vitry said [Associated Press].
  • In May 1976, fire struck the Yorkshire Apartments in El Paso County, Colorado. (The Donald Wescott Fire Protection District is named in honor of the firefighter who died in the line of duty at the Yorkshire Apartments. Other firefighters were injured in the fire caused by gasoline stored in open containers. A family of three also died.)
  • On July 21, 1976, a training accident claimed the life of Kenneth D. Double, a firefighter at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
  • On July 31, 1976, the Big Thompson Flood struck near Loveland, Colorado.
  • On Nov. 16, 1976, a Texas International DC-9 stalled after takeoff at Stapleton and crashed. The 81 passengers and 5 crewmembers suffered a total of 14 injured; no fatalities.
  • On Sept, 18, 1978, fire gutted F.J. LeGrue & Co., a floral business, on South Broadway, Denver. [DFD]
  • On May 21, 1979, the body of an unidentified male ("John Doe") was found at the scene of arson fire at 128 28th St., Denver. The victim's identity remains unknown after three decades. The incident is on the Denver Police Department "cold case" list.
  • On Dec. 23, 1979, a sniper's bullet grazed John Dishong, an Aurora firefighter driving a fire truck. A metal ashtray in his jacket deflected the bullet. [Associated Press story in Spokane Daily Chronicle]

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