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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

BUTTE LINE OF DUTY - 1895

Photos: City-County of Butte Silver Bow 

On Jan. 15, 1895, a series of powder explosions ripped through the warehouse district of Butte, Montana, killing 57 people - including 13 of the city's 15 firefighters.


Fire Chief Angus Cameron and Assistant Fire Chief John Sloan Jr were among the dead.

Box 72 was transmitted just before 10 p.m., an alarm station that would become known as "Fateful Box 72."


A dispatch to The Denver News said: "There were three separate explosions, the first two breaking nearly every window in a radius of two miles. Men and women were mowed down like grass before a sickle."


Of the two firefighters who survived, 
John Flannery was at the hydrant and Dave Magee, the driver, was shielded by his team.

A fire horse named Jim also survived.

The Manitoba Morning Free Press in Winnipeg printed Firefighter Magee's eyewitness account of the disaster:

"After reaching the fire we laid 1,000 feet of hose, and Flannery stayed at the hydrant. I drove up to the building with the hose and then drove back about 200 feet and stopped.

``A moment later the first explosion occurred in the building and the flames burst through the roof, but no one was hurt by this explosion. The boys then went back to the building again thinking the danger was all over.

``Jack Sloane came over to the wagon and got an axe and started to cut an opening to the building. My brother William got in the back of the wagon and advised me to drive further away for fear of another explosion.

``I told him there was no danger, and got down to blanket the horses. I usually get off on the inside nearest the fire, but this time the horses were between me and the fire and it is fortunate for me that such was the case.

``Just as I pulled the blankets down from the seat and spread one of them out to throw it over the horse the second explosion came. I did not see anything, and only remember hearing the awful roar and being knocked down.

``When I recovered a moment later I found the wagon partly on top of me with the tongue across my breast and the off horse was lying right on top of me. The blankets had caught fire. Pieces of wood were burning all round me and I was momentarily chocked and bewildered.

``I struggled to get loose but I was unable to free myself. People were screaming all round me and crying for help. I could hardly make my voice heard. After a while a man came along and I begged him for God's sake to help me out.

``With his assistance I managed to get out from the the weight that was pinning me down and struggled to my feet I limped along, but was getting along slowly when a couple of men came along and carried me to the Harrison house.

``From there I was brought home. The last I saw of Jack Sloane, he was pounding away at the door, and when I saw Cameron last he was taking the kinks out of the hose between the wagon and the burning building. All of the other boys were close behind Slaone, and they were certainly all killed."

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