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, August 18, 2015


Denver, Colo., March 15, 1902. -- St. Vincent's Orphan asylum, situated in the northern part of the city, was badly damaged by fire this afternoon. There were 200 orphan children in the institution. All were rescued unharmed. The asylum is conducted by the Catholic Sisters of Charity.

The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah, March 16, 1902

Monday, July 27, 2015


In 1876, the 
City of Denver installed a Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph system. It consisted of eight miles of wire, two circuits and 18 alarm boxes. Initially, the boxes were connected to a huge bell mounted atop a 150-foot tower. By counting the strokes of the box number, firefighters were able to locate the alarm. By 1890, the Gamewell system had been expanded to 55 miles of wire and 95 boxes. Signals were transmitted by wire to firehouses. The telegraph system was expanded in the 20th Century and remained in service until 1971.



In the 20th Century, the City of Denver was divided into five alarm zones:

1 - Central
2 - Southern
3 - Capital Hill
4 - Eastern
5 - Northern

Each fire alarm telegraph zone was divided into five sectors.

Each alarm box was assigned a four-digit identification number.

For example:

The fire alarm box at the corner of Colfax and Pennsylvania was assigned No. 1374.

"1" - The first digit identified the zone (Central).

"3" - The second digit identified the sector within the zone (Sector 3).

"7" and "4" - The third and four digits were unique to the transmitter of each box (Box 74).

In the 19th Century, when the city was less populated, each fire alarm box was assigned a two-digit identification number.

For example:

The box at 17th and Lawrence under the earlier system was numbered Box 27 and under the later system Box 1221.

SOURCE: Denver Firefighters Museum


Opening the door of an alarm box and pulling the hook would trip a clockwork motor. The motor turned a notched wheel unique to each box. The wheel broke an electrical circuit. The notches on the wheel were arranged to send a signal identifying the alarm station to fire headquarters, which manually relayed the signal to firehouse receivers via a repeater. The repeater tapped out the box number over a system of station bells several times. For example, the wheel for Box 27 would have been two notches, a space, and seven notches. Firehouse bells would tap out the signal 2-7 for Box 27 in repetition, typically four times. A paper tape would also record the signal to verify the box number. Firefighters would refer to a "running card" to determine in what order they were "due at the box," i.e. first, second, third, etc.

Official List of Colorado Cities with Gamewell Systems in 1940s
Canon City
Colorado Springs
Cripple Creek
Fort Collins
Idaho Springs
Source: Youngstown Fire



From Pueblo Fire Museum

"On Christmas Eve of 1949, the first aid squad of the Pueblo Fire Department was involved in a fatal accident at the intersection of West 9th St. and Grand Avenue. Killed was 57-year-old William A. DeLong, a 30-year veteran of the Pueblo Fire Department.

"The accident occurred as the first aid squad was answering a call at 1426 N. Grand. Travelling north on Grand, the first aid squad slammed into an automobile, which had proceeded through the intersection on a green light.

"The high impact of the collision hurled the first aid vehicle over the top of the automobile, throwing DeLong out of the vehicle. Fire Medic Sal Pannunzio, the other occupant of the first aid vehicle, sustained only minor injuries.

The 42 year-old driver of the automobile had minor injuries. His wife sustained a fractured leg, cracked ribs and a bruised neck. The man said that when the light turned green, he proceeded through the intersection and neither saw nor heard the oncoming first aid unit.

"William A. DeLong was survived by his wife, Thea, and their two children. Pueblo firemen G. Lowe, C.C. Wood, R.J. Stewart, A.A. Pisciotta, M. Colby, and S. Pannunzio served as pallbearers. DeLong was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Pueblo."



From Pueblo Fire Museum

"On Monday, May 9, 1945, fireman Joseph F. Robida was killed in an auto accident. Riding on the back of Engine Company No. 4 with fellow fireman Joseph Ferraro, the fire truck was struck at the intersection of Mesa and Lake by a Rainbo bread delivery truck.

"Responding to a fire alarm at 512 Acero, the crew from the Bessemer station was traveling west on Mesa. The bread truck, driving north on Lake, made an effort to stop, but struck the rear of the fire truck, throwing firefighters Robida and Ferraro from the vehicle.

"Robida struck his head on the edge of the curbing, killing him instantly. The pumper traveled 172 feet after the impact.

"Fireman Ferraro was thrown to the pavement, where he received four broken ribs, a fracture of the spine, a punctured lung, cuts, abrasions and other injuries. Ferraro had to retire from the Department on a full disability, after being on the Department for 8 years.

"Fire engineer Frank White was driving the fire truck, with Captain Charles DiPalma riding next to him. Each also sustained cuts and bruises, with Engineer White suffering internal injuries also. The driver of the bread truck received injuries to his legs.

The 41-year-old Robida, husband and father of four, was a 10-year veteran." 



From Pueblo Fire Museum

"Two years after taking office as the first paid chief of the Pueblo Fire Department, Chief Robert J. Krague was killed when he was thrown from his horse-drawn buggy. He was 37 years old.

"It was July 31, 1891, mid-afternoon. Chief Krague was making a practice run in the vicinity of Carlisle Spring (near what is now Dutch Clark Stadium).

"Driving westbound on Abriendo Avenue at a high rate of speed, his horse, Tom, apparently was spooked and was running out of control. Near the Abriendo bridge his buggy overturned, and Chief Krague was thrown to the ground.

"According to a 15 year-old witness, Chief Krague struck his head on a rock and rolled several times. When the witness got to him, the chief was unconscious and bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth.

"He was taken by a police wagon to the Sisters of Charity Hospital (St. Mary's), where he never regained consciousness. He died in the early evening with his grieving wife by his side.

"Chief Krague lie in state in the city council chambers until his funeral. The Richmond Hook and Ladder truck was used as the casket bearer, pulled by Tom, Krague's uninjured horse. Krague was buried at Riverview Cemetery.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Photo: Greeley Fire. Dept.

Two lonely firemen drag hose at blaze at Balcom Industries Inc. insecticide plant in Greeley, Colorado, in days before HAZMAT response. Date unknown.


: Private Collection

Blizzard scene of Denver Fire Department truck company and street car. Legend has it that when the Great Blizzard of 1913 stopped Denver firemen from reaching a blaze, the occupants extinguished the flames using snow.

1933 FLOOD

View of flooding from 11th Street Bridge

On Aug. 3, 1933, the Castlewood Dam crumbled, sending a 
deluge roaring into Denver. 

The Associated Press reported:

Pounding down on Franktown, tiny village on a hillside four miles below the dam, the surging tide swept on six miles to Parker, at times on a mile-wide front, and picked up tons of debris as it swirled into suburban Denver and sent Cherry Creek on a rampage through the heart of the city."

Denver police and firemen - their sirens "going full blast" - sped through streets warning people to evacuate.

Seven people died in Denver, according to the National Weather Service.

C&B TIRE - 1956

Photo: Museum of Western Colorado via Beacon
On Oct. 2, 1956, a fire and explosion destroyed C&B Tire and Recap at Third Street and Rood Avenue in Grand Junction.


Photo: Daily Camera photo

On Feb. 9, 1932, high winds fanned a fire at the Boulder County Courthouse.

Firefighters from Boulder, Longmont and Denver could do little "but watch the watch the building burn," according to the archives of the Daily Camera .

The clock tower collapsed. The roof caved.

The county's records, nonetheless, survived.


Photos: Wyoming Tales and Trails (top), Jackson News & Guide (left)

On Aug. 5, 1980, an electrical fault in a transformer atop the Wort Hotel in Jackson, Wyoming, ignited a bird nest and the flames spread.

The fire burned into the night and the roof collapsed.
Just days later, a sign went up saying: "We will be back."

The hotel reopened in June 1981.


Photo: School website

On March 22, 1950, an electrical short triggered a fire at the Colorado School for Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs.

Students rescued a painting of General William Jackson Palmer, the school's benefactor.

Firefighters contended with low hydrant pressure. The evacuation was orderly.


Photo: Denver Public Library

On May 20, 1935, fire broke out at the Casanova, night club of the famous Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver.

"Flimsy draperies and hanging decorations in the Casanova went up like tinder, pouring smoke and gas fumes through the hotel," the United Press reported. "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 Sept. 20, 1943, three members of the Denver Fire Department died in a fire in Tunnel No. 10 of the Moffat Tunnel Rail Line, near Rollinsville, Colorado. 

Following is from Sept. 21, 1943, edition of Denver Post:


Meet Death in Bore on Moffat Road, Probably from Suffocation; Body of Only One is Recovered

Three Denver city firemen died Monday night fighting a fire in the timbered walls of a 1600 foot Denver and Salt Lake railroad tunnel, twenty-seven miles northwest of Denver.

The dead, according to Fire Chief Healy, are Douglas Vernon Parrish, 49, of 340 Clarkson street, machinist in the fire department shops; James Williams, 37, of 1209 East Colfax avenue, Chief Healy's driver, and John Kennedy, 34, of 665 Lafayette street. All were married and two were fathers.

Parrish's body was recovered just inside the east portal of the tunnel, but fire department officials said it is unlikely any trace ever will be found of the other two men. 


At noon Tuesday the tunnel was still a roaring furnace, filled with poisonous flumes. A pumper truck the Denver men had accompanied to the scene was pouring a stream of water in the east end, and a locomotive was doing the same at the west end.

Men still could not approach the entrances.

Fire Capt. William R. Parry in command of the Denver men and pumper, was saved only by accident, because his gas mask was working improperly and he left the tunnel to get another. The pumper, one of Denver's newest, was loaded on a flatcar and taken to the scene with its crew in response to a call for help about 6:30 p.m. There is no road highway near the tunnel. When the report of the disaster was received, Chief Healy sent rescue squad No. 4, under Capt. Wilfred Lindsay, to the scene. The squad truck left the city at 1:25 a.m. These firemen worked over Parrish about two hours without success.

Fred W. Warner, superintendent of equipment for the fire department, who was sent to the tunnel Tuesday morning, returned at noon to report to Chief Healy.

"Parry went with Williams and Kennedy about 600 to 700 feet into the tunnel to fight the fire," Warner said. "They had their gas masks on; Parry's wasn't working right, so he came out." That's all that saved his life! Apparently a short time after he left his companions, carbon monoxide gas formed, possibly from creosote on the burning ties and timbers.

A stiff wind had been blowing from the east into the tunnel mouth. It suddenly veered, creating the hazard most feared by firemen—a back draft.

The gas and back draft combined to make a death trap for Kennedy and Williams. Their masks were ineffective against monoxide, but even if they became conscious of the gas and tried to flee, they possibly were trapped by falling timber.

Parrish working at the pumper, became alarmed when the men had not returned in ten minutes, Warner stated. Seizing a gas mask, he entered the tunnel.


A. L. Johnson, general superintendent of the D. & S.L., said G. E. Hamilton, the roadmaster, then took a mask and went in search of Parrish. He stumbled over Parrish's body about 100 feet inside. Hamilton was losing consciousness trying to drag out Parrish, when he was rescued by other railroad men.



Photos: Daily Camera files 

Boulder firefighters Scott L. Smith and William J. Duran  died on Jan. 26, 1982 during a training fire in an abandoned shed near 15th Street and Hawthorn Avenue.

The structure was "lined with combustible fiberboard," according to Fire Engineering magazine.

ollowing the deaths, the National Fire Protection Association established strict standards for live fire training.

Three other firefighters were injured.

In 1982, "there was an assumption with training that because it was training, it was inherently safer," Boulder Fire Chief Larry Donner told the Daily Camera.

"It was just one of those things where people didn't look at it with the same intensity as an emergency situation."



Photos: Fort Collins Public Library, Poudre Valley Fire Authority

On June 29, 1965, Clifford Carpenter, Fort Collins fire chief, was killed by falling bricks and mortar at the State Dry Goods store fire.

Carpenter, 49, was directing hose lines at the building College and Oak streets when an exterior wall gave way, according to the Fort Collins History Connection and Poudre Valley Fire Authority.

Firefighter Jim Witchel was injured.

The cause was determined to be an electrical timer that controlled the lights in the dry goods store show window.

Newspapers published photographs of the chief, in his white helmet, in the seconds leading to his death.

The alarm was transmitted about 10:30 p.m.

Monday, January 5, 2015


(Associated Press)
Denver, Feb. 4. - Twenty-five persons were injured today when the locomotive boiler of an empty Denver & Rio Grande Western passenger train was blown from its under-carriage in an explosion in the southwest industrial section of Denver.

The boiler and cab of the locomotive, being pushed backward into the Burnham railroad yards by another locomotive, arched 60 feet in the air over the pusher engine, crushed an empty railway express car behind it, and slid off beside the tracks.

Several of the injured were motorists who had stopped at thirteenth street and Osage avenue for the train to cross. None of the injured was reported in immediate danger.

George F. Dodge, an executive of the railway, said there is no question but that the water was low in the boiler of the engine" and added that this probably caused the explosion. The locomotive and tender weighted 573,000 pounds loaded

Force of the blast blew windows and bricks from the Western Eluterite Roofing Co. plant, located 25 feet from the tracks, and blew parked automobiles out of position.

Some members of a loading crew working on a track 50 feet away were injured.

Fireman Ray Shaffer, member of the first fire department rescue squad reaching the scene, said that "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."

Several of the dazed victims asked the firemen, What's happened around here?" Shaffer said.

Frank Hobbs, an employe of the roofing company, described the explosion as "as earthquake and a powder plant explosion rolled into one."

"About four of us were in the office, joking and kidding before going to work," Hobbs related. "All of a sudden a terrific explosion knocked me backward. Some of the furniture flew around in the room and the walls seemed to jump."

"It was about 10 minutes before we could even see anything because of the dust and smoke and steam. The explosion just seemed to knock you backwards. Several men fell to their knees."

"When we could see, we ran outside. Cars were blown around the street. I was so dazed I couldn't even remember seeing any of the injured people."

The train was heading southward from the Denver union station to the D. & R. G. W. Burnham yards. The engine that exploded was one of the largest used by the railroad, and still had steam up after completing its run in from Salt Lake City.

Behind the large locomotive was another locomotive, two railway express cars and two empty passenger cars.

After landing atop the first railway express car, the locomotive boiler slid to the ground. One trainman was reported to have been burned from the second locomotive cab by the force of the explosion.

CHAUNCEY BABCOCK, piloting the second engine, said he noticed nothing amiss on the run from the Denver union station until the "terrific explosion" occurred. The train was proceeding very slowly so that a trainman could clear the switch into the Burnham yards for the "pick-up" train.

No one was in the railway express car crushed by the huge locomotive boiler.

The trucks of the large "mogal" type locomotive, used for heavy mountain pulls, remained on the tracks.

The force of the explosion damaged an automobile from which MISS IONE PUGH, 31, of Denver, was alighting. Although she was about 60 feet from the locomotive, she suffered severe burns.


CHAUNCEY BABCOCK, crew member, Denver.
GEORGE E. EHALT, 40, crew member, Denver.
W. H. WALTON, locomotive pilot, Denver.
MARTIN BRINK, crew member, Pueblo, Colo.
GEORGE HAWKINS, crew member, Denver.
PETE RODRIGUEZ, 35, loading crew member, Denver.
JOE ZARAGOZA, 52, loading crew member, Denver.
ALEC THEORONS, 60, loading crew member, Denver.
CANDALARIO GARCIA, 40, loading crew member, Denver.
CRUZ T. JUAREZ, 35, loading crew member, Denver.
MODESTO RAMIEREZ, 40, loading crew member, Denver.
IONE PUGH, 31, Denver.
JOE GALLARD, 22, Denver.
PETE GALLEGOS, 40, Denver.
E. J. ROGERS, 42, Denver highway department employe.
PAUL TRUJILLO, 25, Denver.
ELMER ROCK, 26, Denver.
FREEMAN RICE, roofing company employe, Denver.
LAWRENCE MARTIN, railway employe, Denver.
C. L. CARBREY, 40 crew member, Denver

Greeley Tribune Feb. 4, 1941

Saturday, January 3, 2015


Passerby attends to Chief Mahon

On the night of Nov. 30, 1934, Fire Lt. John Kessels and his crew from Engine Co. 2 were advancing a hose through dense smoke on the third floor of Midwest Trunk & Bag Co. in Denver, Colorado.

"We were playing a line directly on the flames and thought we were getting along pretty good," Kessels told The Denver Post.

In an alley along the east side of the building, Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Mahon shouted orders.

Then ...

A wall collapsed, pinning Mahon to the wall of an adjacent building, trapping Kessel beneath a timber support and burying others in brick and mortar.

A dozen men down.


The Midwest Trunk & Bag Co. building was located at 1524-1526 15th St. at Wazee Street in the warehouse district.

It was constructed of hand-pressed brick three decades earlier with timber supports.

It had been considered "one of the finest buildings in lower Denver," according to The Rocky Mountain News.

At 8:34 p.m., the first alarm was turned in by a nightwatchman who discovered flames in the rear of the structure.

Crews thought they had the fire under control soon thereafter when a whoosh of air sent flames rocketing up an elevator shaft 75 feet into the night sky.

Denver Fire Chief John Healy ordered a second alarm - "2-11 signal" - transmitted over the fire alarm telegraph system, bringing more men and more equipment from distant parts of the city.


Assistant Chief Mahon, 47, immigrated from Ireland as a young man and served as a member of the Denver Fire Department for 28 years.

On the night of the fire, he was assigned to South Denver and "covered in" on the "2-11" with his driver, Joseph Murray.

In the alley where Mahon took position, men climbed a 50-foot ladder.

On the roof, Lieutenant H.M. Klein and 10 others went about their work.

Engine 2's Kessel and his crew held the third floor.

Others covered the second.

Firemen Roxie Pomponio and Clinton Turnbull had the first.

More prowled the alley.

"Chief Mahon saw the wall was giving in and yelled for all the firemen to get out of the building and out of the path of the wall," Fireman John Treckman told the Post. "Just as he hollered there was a terrific crash.

"I saw the debris coming down and jumped into a doorway for protection," Treckman said. "I saw Chief Mahon was caught in the debris. I saw his legs sticking out from a pile of bricks."


R.L. Wynkoop, an employee of Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph, was about a half a block away when the wall came down and ran for the nearest phone.

"I saw a tangle of men, debris and bricks and I knew some of the men must be badly hurt," Wynkoop told the News.

He asked the police operator to "send all the ambulances you've got to 15th and Wazee. Get them there in a hurry. A lot of firemen have been hurt by a falling wall."

In 1934, fire apparatus had yet to be equipped with two-way radios.


Captain William Carlin of Rescue Squad 2 instinctively took charge to save the fallen firemen.

Firemen Frank Piper, O.D. Wilson and J.J. Johnson were the first to reach Mahon.

George Reynolds and Harry Moore of Rescue Squad 2 followed.

The men lifted a heavy window frame pinning Mahon to a wall.

The 50-foot ladder near Mahon snapped and those scaling it "clung dizzily in mid-air," the Post reported.

On the roof, Lieutenant Klein shouted "let's get out of here" and directed his men to ladders that remained intact.

On the third floor, a crew lifted the timber pinning Lieutenant Kessels while Fireman Ted Webber pulled him loose.

From the first floor, Pomponio and Turnbull dropped into the basement, remarkably without injury.


Mahon was taken to Denver General Hospital where he died the next day at 4:20 a.m.

He suffered internal injuries, a fractured left leg, a fractured left arm and spinal injuries.

On its front page of its Dec. 1 edition, the Post printed a photo of Mahon sprawled on the ground, attended to by a civilian.

Engine Company 6 suffered the most casualties: William Behrman, Eugene Sullivan, Herbert Jacobson and Captain Harry Wood.

Doctors feared Behrman and Sullivan might not survive, but they did with Sullivan receiving a blood transfusion from Fireman Frank Neujahr, one of about 20 men who offered to act as donors.

Engine 2 suffered three casualties: Kessels, Londi Ross and Ralph Paul, both of whom were advancing the hose line with Kessels.

Engine 1 suffered two casualties: John Dempsey and Charles Jones.

Squad 4's John Doherty was also injured as was Peter Golesh, driver for Assistant Chief Guy Walker.

Others suffered cuts and bruises but refused treatment.


For a time it seemed the fire, which started in an overheated coal stove, claimed the life of Mahon's driver, Fireman Joseph Murray, as he was nowhere to be found.

He turned up at a firehouse later that night, having been dispatched from the blaze to pick up another assistant chief.

Engine 12 never made it to the fire from its quarters at West 26th Street and Federal Boulevard.

It was struck by a locomotive at a crossing on 15th Street.

None of its men were hurt but the front of the rig was demolished.

A police radio car responding to the fire was also in a wreck with another automobile.


With his head bandaged and right leg splinted, Lieutenant Kessels of Engine 2 bummed a cigarette and telephoned his wife from a ward at Denver General Hospital.

According to the Post, Kessels told her:

"You'll hear about a bunch of us getting hurt at this fire. Don't worry about me. I got a little scratch on my eye. I'm alright."