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.

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."