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.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

FORNEY MUSEUM


Photos: Vinny Del Giudice
The special exhibit "Fire Trucks to the Rescue!" is on display at Denver's Forney Museum of Transportation until May 1. Two of the rigs on display - old Engine 6 of the Denver Fire Department and old City Engine 4 of the Fort Morgan Fire Department - are owned by Kevin Sweeney, retired chief of operations at North Metro Fire Rescue. The museum is located at 4303 Brighton Blvd. in Denver. Telephone (303) 297-1113.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

DIESEL DALMATIAN

Photo: Adams County Fire Rescue
Dalmatians, it is said, have natural affinity to horses. In days of old, the breed would help protect fire horses. This contemporary pooch, it seems, has an affinity for diesels.

COLORADO SPRINGS - 2015

Photo: Colorado Springs Fire Department
House fire in Colorado Springs in March 2015 with Engine 1 and Truck 8 on scene.

PUEBLO - 1904

Image: Pueblo Fire Museum
Firehouse death of Pueblo firefighter Andrew Baker, 42, of No. 1 steamer, as reported by the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper on June 16, 1904. Baker was cleaning a horse stall when an equine named Jim, who had a habit of biting, kicked him. Moments earlier, when Baker entered the stall, Jim snapped at him - and Baker tapped Jim with a broom.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

DOG'S BEST FRIEND

Photo: West Metro Fire
West Metro firefighter clutching canine evacuee on the fireground. West Metro serves the Denver suburbs of Lakewood and Wheat Ridge and the old Barcroft fire district.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

GREELEY BURNING

 

On Feb. 6, 2022, firefighters rescued a person from a house fire in the 3500-block of 35th Avenue in Greeley, Colorado. "Ladder 5 crew arrived on scene to find a working fire and immediately initiated an interior search of the structure," the fire department said on Facebook. B-Shift was on duty that evening.

Blaze at Greeley's old Tolman store at 8th Avenue and 7th Street in October 1956.

On Dec. 26, 1968, fire struck the old Sterling Theater at 926 9th Ave. in Greeley. The theater was undergoing demolition and much of the floor had been removed.
Greeley firefighters rescued two people from a fire in a two-story house in the 800-block of 4th Street on Aug. 22, 2021.
On the scene and tending to a troubled auto in the early 1960s.
Photos: Greeley Fire Department On Jan. 6, 1970, fire swept the construction site of the
library at Colorado State College - today the University of Northern Colorado - in Greeley. Firefighters endured bitter cold.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

AURORA - 2022



Photos
: Aurora Fire Department

Aurora, Colorado, firefighters on the scene of a fatal apartment fire on Jan. 24, 2022

Saturday, January 14, 2023

MAFIA BOMBERS - 1932

On April 12, 1932, a bomb exploded at Paradise Cleaning and Dyeing in Denver after the plant's owners refused to pay protection money to gangsters. Joseph Bitman, a part owner of the plant, told police he had been approached by representatives of a "protective association," according to a United Press dispatch.

BIG CHILL - 2023

 

Photo: Adams County Fire Rescue
Fighting fire and the weather, these Adams County, Colorado, firefighters are contending with flames, smoke and near-zero temperatures at an abandoned building at 60th Avenue and Federal Boulevard on Dec. 23, 2023. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

BUSES TORCHED - 1970

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 fuel tanks. Workers were able to move some of the buses during the fire, news reports said.

OLD LOWRY






Photos: Fire Trucks At War, Lowry Foundation
Building 357 was home to fire department headquarters at now-shuttered Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. Today, a theater group occupies the old firehouse.

IT'S STILL A JOB RISK

On April 10, 1907, while chopping a hole in a roof with an ax, a fireman named Bosman accidentally amputated the hand of a fireman named Deutsch at the servants' quarters of the Grand Hotel in Durango, Colorado, according to the Telluride Daily Journal in the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

11 DEAD IN ENGLEWOOD - 1928


Denver Fire Chief John Healy directs search for victims

On April 20, 1928, 11 workers died in a fire at the Alexander Aircraft Company in the Denver suburb of Englewood and many others were injured.

Employee Richard Trenari, 21, said: "It was a terrible inferno."

The fire was preceded by explosions in or near the paint shop, according to an Associated Press story in Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal of Dubuque.

Barred windows trapped workers in the building where silver nitrate was applied to aircraft wings, and the floors were soaked in combustibles, according to Wikipedia.

Five corporate directors were charged with voluntary manslaughter though that was reduced to safety violations and they were fined $1,000 and handed suspended jail sentences.

By operating in Englewood, the company was able to skirt Denver's building codes.

WYOMING NIGHT WATCH


Engine 2401 of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management High Plains District shines with the night sky in Wyoming.

VINTAGE FORT COLLINS


Photo: Poudre Fire Authority
On the job in Fort Collins, Colorado, in late 1920s or 1930s.  The pump is churning.

BATHTUB BLUES - 1962

"We did our job and got the hell out of there." That's how John DeJong, assistant Denver Fire chief, described the Dec. 13, 1962 rescue of Linda Jane Hinchman, a student at Colorado Womens College.

Hinchman, 17, of Glenwood, Indiana, wedged her toe in a faucet while bathing. Firemen sawed off the faucet and freed her toe with petroleum jelly.
  The freshman was "well-bundled" by classmates by the time her rescuers arrived.

She kept the faucet as a souvenir, according to a UPI wire dispatch in the Dec. 14, 1962 edition of the News-Press of St. Joseph, Missouri.

SOUTH METRO FIRE RESCUE


Photo: South Metro Fire Rescue

Colorado's South Metro Fire Rescue is major force in the Denver area.

It traces its roots to the Castlewood Fire Protection District, which consolidated with the Castle Pines Fire Department and North Douglas County Fire Protection District in 1986 and the Cherry Hills Fire Protection District in 1989, according to Wikipedia.

The name South Metro name was adopted in the late 1990s.

Its territory expanded through further consolidation and includes Bow M
ar, Castle Pines, Centennial, Cherry Hills Village, Columbine Valley, Foxfield, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Lone Tree, Parker, Castle Pines Village, Highlands Ranch, Louviers, Centennial Airport, the Denver Tech Center, Inverness, Meridian Office Park and unincorporated sections of Arapahoe and Douglas counties. 

Today, South Metro Fire Rescue operates 30 fire stations, protecting
 300 square miles of Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson counties, according to its website.

FEDERAL HEIGHTS LODD - 1976

On Jan. 7, 1976, Guyon Zimmerman, 60, a volunteer firefighter with Colorado's Federal Heights Fire Department, suffered a fatal heart attack at a trailer park fire, according to the next day's Rocky Mountain News.


Zimmerman was airlifted to St. Anthony's Hospital from the Countryside Village Mobile Home Park at 9850 North Federal Boulevard, the newspaper reported.

The fire heavily damaged the trailer home of Dale Roush.

Zimmerman, who resided at 2000 West 92nd Ave., was survived by his wife Nellie B. Zimmerman, mayor pro-tem of Federal Heights, and two adult daughters.

The Rocky Mountain News made no mention of other injuries, the suspected cause of the fire, mutual aid, etc.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

MARSHALL FIRE - 2021

Photo: Longmont Fire Department



On Dec. 30, 2021, the Marshall Fire ripped across Bounder County grasslands, destroying more than 1,000 structures in Louisville, Superior and unincorporated neighborhoods.

Winds in excess of 105 mph fed the flames and scattered red hot embers far and wide. Little could be done early on despite the determined efforts of firefighters. 

A man died and another person was listed as missing and presumed dead in one of the most costly blazes in Colorado history. It was remarkable more people didn't perish given the speed of the fire. The low death toll speaks volumes about evacuation efforts.

“It’s unbelievable we don’t have a list of 100 missing persons -- but we don’t,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.


Longmont Firefighter Patrick Kramer captured images of the disaster, according to 9News, including this photograph. 

“Those winds and that fire would preheat the house next to it and then catch that house on fire and then it would spread to the next house, to the next house, to the next house," Kramer said. "We just tried to get ahead of it and stop what we could."

Investigators said the fire started near a religious compound in Marshall.

Home accounted for most of the property losses. A large hotel also burned as did commercial structures. A hospital in Louisville was spared thanks to the bravery of its staff, but sustained heavy smoke damage. Its patients were safely evacuated.

As the last of the flames were extinguished, Louisville Fire Chief John Willson told 9News: "It's been three days now and I still can't wrap my head around this." 

Photo: White House

President Joe Biden toured the area, consoling victims and thanking firefighters, police and first responders. 
"There’s an old expression: God made man, and then he made a few firefighters.  And there’s some truth to that," Biden said.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

DOWNTOWN DENVER

Barnett Building - 1932


Downtown Denver was primed fire in the early 20th Century, owning to antiquated building design, primitive fire protection systems and factories intertwined with hotels and other businesses.

On Feb. 17, 1932, fire broke out at the Barnett Building at 16th and Larimer streets in downtown Denver. 

Six firefighters and a watchman suffered burns and smoke inhalation in harsh conditions. Frozen hose spray glazed streets, trolley lines and fire crews while flames roared from above.

The top floors were engulfed.

"Fire Chief Healy, veteran smoke eater and one of the best known firefighters in the country, narrowly escaped death," the Associated Press reported in that day's Evening Gazette of Berkeley, California.

Among other blazes:

- On May 22, 1901, fire destroyed the Eaton-Ritchell Company, a tinware factory and warehouse occupying half a block at 15th and Wynkoop streets, according to The New York Times.

- On March 15, 1906, fire struck the Flint-Lomax Electric Manufacturing Company, 14th and Wynkoop streets, the Salida Mail reported.

- On Feb 9, 1907, a late night fire broke out at the Club Building on Arapahoe Street with the flames confined to a Denver skirt company on the sixth floor of the eight-story building, according to the Aspen Times.

- On May 30, 1910, fire gutted the fourth and fifth floors of the Spratlen-Anderson grocery wholesalers at 1638 Fifteenth St.

- On July 8,1927, an early morning fire damaged the Broadway Theatre in Denver, the Longmont Times reported. The blaze started in the properties room and spread to the curtain loft before it was stopped. The adjacent Cosmopolitan Hotel sustained smoke damage.

- On March 19, 1928, Colorado House, one of the city's oldest hotels, was "partially destroyed" by fire, according to the Associated Press. Several people jumped from windows.


- On Sept. 6, 1928, a general alarm fire consumed to Loop Market block in downtown Denver, the Associated Press reported. Twelve firefighters suffered injuries and 10 others received oxygen at the scene.

RUNS & WORKERS

On Sept, 18, 1978, fire gutted F.J. LeGrue & Co., a florist, on South Broadway, Denver. 


Photo
: Greeley Fire Dept.

Island Grove grandstand, Greeley - 1977



Photo
: Poudre Valley Fire Authority

Fire in downtown Fort Collins, circa 1970s or 1980s


Photo: Poudre Valley Fire Authority
Fire in downtown Fort Collins, circa 1970s or 1980s


16th Street, Cheyenne, Wyoming, date unknown.



Cheyenne High School, Aug. 6, 1963.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

GREAT FIRE OF BUTTE - 1905

Scene at Broadway and Montana streets

By Butte Fire Chief Peter Sanger
As told to Fire Engineering magazine in 1905


Butte, Montana

At 8:30 o’clock on Sunday morning, September 24, an alarm was received from one of the main business districts of the city. In less than a moment’s time the department arrived at the scene, and found the fire to be in the boiler room, which was located in the sub-basement of the Symons Dry Goods company’s store. A general alarm was then turned in, and in five minutes’ time the whole department was on hand, including thirty-seven men.

The ground floor on Galena street was known as the basement, and was cut through on the alley line with a roadway or passage, open only at one end, over which the three upper stories formed an arch. Beneath this basement, or lower story facing on Galena street, was an excavation the whole length of the building, used as a sub-basement, in the Park street end of which stood the furnace and boiler room, and this was where the tire started.

The boiler room could be entered only by way of the store proper, or by a star, the entrance of which opened on to the arched passage already mentioned. The door to this entrance being heavily barred, and the passage forming a trap for the smoke and flames, it was an impossibility to reach the seat of the fire at once.

The basements were completely filled with stock, and the fire smoldered for some little time; but, after the flames reached the elevator-shaft, they spread rapidly, burning through the upper floors and enveloping the entire building, and made their way to the adjoining building, which included, to the east, the Barret & Jackey block, a two-story brick building, and the Woodworth block, a three-story brick building, which, with the Symons’ store building, were completely ruined, and a one-story brick building, which was partially burned.

All of these buildings ran the whole length of the block from Park to Galena streets. To the west stood the Ogden block, a three-story brick building, facing on Galena street, and running only to the alley. The interior of this building was considerably damaged by smoke and water.

To the south, across Galena street, and to the west, across the southern extension of Academy street, fire broke out in the Paumie block and Renshaw hall, but was soon extinguished in both places, the principal damage resulting from water and smoke.

During the morning a fierce gale was blowing to the northwest, and it was only by the hardest work that the fire was kept from spreading to the buildings on the opposite side of Park street. A firebrand, however, was carried beyond these to the roof of the public library, a three-story brick structure, on the farther side of Academy street, and one block above Park street.

This was burned down to the second story. Owing to the high wind, it looked for a while as though the fire were going to result seriously; but by one o’clock it was well under control, and no further apprehension was felt, upon the part either of the firemen or the citizens.

Assistance was offered us by the different departments throughout the State, and, when the situation was most discouraging, that of the Anaconda department was accepted.  This department promptly responded, bringing a steamer and several thousand feet of hose.

Twenty-eight streams of water were thrown at one time during the course of the fire on Park street and at the library, and the water supply never once gave out. Taking into consideration the location and construction of the building in which the fire started, as well as the strong wind blowing at the time, the termination of the fire must be considered very fortunate and the ensuing loss very small.

Monday, October 14, 2019

SALIDA - 2019

Photo: Sam Del Giudice

Photo: Sam Del Giudice

Smoke plume from the Decker wildfire flare-up visible in downtown Salida, Colorado, on Oct. 13 2019. Lightning started the fire more than a month earlier, about nine miles south of the city. The blaze reached within two miles of the Salida limits, according to the National Forest Service. Incident commanders withdrew 755 firefighters as the flames gained momentum and called in aerial tankers. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

GREAT FALLS - 1928


On Dec. 9, 1928, flames destroyed the Stanton Trust & Savings Bank building in Great Falls, Montana, damaging nearby structures and sending aloft burning embers that started several minor house fires, according to the Great Falls Tribune. The five-story bank building, erected in 1890 of stone, brick and wood, "burned like tinder," the newspaper said. Fire Chief A.J. Trodick rescued a woman from the third floor. The blaze started in the elevator shaft.

FRISCO FLIGHT FOR LIFE - 2015

Photo: NTSB

On July 3, 2015, a Flight for Life medical helicopter crashed in Frisco, Colorado, killing the pilot and injuring two crew members. The probable cause was a hydraulic issue, the National Transportation Safety Board said. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

PUEBLO DEPOT - 2018

Photo: U.S. Army

On March 24, 2018, a fire destroyed two warehouses and damaged a third at the U.S. Army's Pueblo Chemical Depot.

No chemicals were involved in the blaze but there's plenty to burn. The chemical stockpile at the 23,000 site is comprised mustard agent and munitions.

The depot, also known as
Pueblo Depot Activity, has its own fire department.

FARMINGTON - 1921

In 1921, fire roared through the business district of Farmington, New Mexico, over the state line from Durango, destroying an ice house, electric plant and flour mill.  The townsfolk pitched into battle the blaze, according to Fire Engineering magazine. No injuries reported.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

ROCKY FLATS - 1957

Site of September 1957 fire
Photo: Wikipedia

Rocky Flats Fire Department in April 1987.
 
Photo: U.S. Energy Department
Rocky Flats was a dangerous place to work and suffered a secret September 11 disaster in the late 1950s.

The federal government's now-shuttered industrial site near Denver fabricated components for nuclear weapons, such as bomb triggers.

Due to the danger, the facility fielded its own fire department.

On Sept. 11, 1957, the spontaneous combustion of plutonium inside a processing unit started a fire that poured contamination over the Denver region.

It was "the first major plutonium fire in a United States weapons laboratory," according to the Energy Department.

Firefighters tried and failed to douse the blaze with carbon dioxide and eventually knocked down the flames with water.

It was the Cold War-era and the government hid the incident from the public under the guise of top secrecy.

Another fire broke out under similar circumstance on May 11, 1969, though the level of contamination was less than 1957.

Officials were more forthright about that incident.

The Rocky Flats Fire Department - based at Building 331 - disbanded in 2005 after the government completed decontamination of the site.

_____

Excerpt of Energy Department historical summary:


At 10:10 p.m. on September 11, 1957, the smell of burning rubber led two Rocky Flats Plant guards in Building 71 to a glovebox emitting eighteen-inch flames in Room 180.


At the time of the fire, Building 71 (also called "C Plant" and, later, Building 771) was an essential component of the Rocky Flats Plant. 

Designed for work with delta-phase plutonium, Building 71 opened in 1953 to recover plutonium for hydrogen bomb triggers.


The September 1957 fire, apparently caused by the spontaneous ignition of a small amount of alpha-plutonium turnings or skulls (metallic casting residues), soon spread along the Plexiglas and set off a chain of events.

Additional building personnel and Rocky Flats Plant firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire two minutes after the guards alerted them, but the time they spent donning protective clothing and debating the best course of action delayed them from combating the flames for ten minutes.

A fire department lieutenant wanted to douse the flames with water, but both a building production shift supervisor and a plant health physicist initially rejected that plan out of fear of inducing criticality.

Workers tried, unsuccessfully, to put out the fire with available carbon dioxide extinguishers.

Firefighters eventually sprayed water on the Room 180 fire and extinguished it safely.

During that interval, however, unburned combustible gases apparently passed under pressure through ventilation ductwork and ignited the filters in the building's exhaust filter plenum.

Minutes after firefighters put out the Room 180 fire, the exhaust system exploded.

On order of the health physics supervisor, everyone evacuated the building to escape plutonium contamination, which spread throughout the building and out through the ventilation system.

Outside the building, observers saw a "very dark" smoke plume, 80 to 100 feet high, billow from the stack.

Arriving at the site after the evacuation, the section superintendent ordered the firefighters to concentrate on extinguishing the filter fire, although several minor rekindlings at the original site also occurred.

At 11:10 p.m., Building 71's electrical power failed, the darkness hampering all efforts. By late the next morning, most of the filter bank and the alpha-phase interim facility in Room 180 had been destroyed.

During the final hours of the fire, Rocky Flats personnel discovered burning cylinders of nickel carbonyl inside the exhaust plenum and cooled them with water.

The nickel carbonyl was used to provide a protective nickel coating to plutonium components so they could be handled in the open with less risk of personnel exposure to contamination or build up of static electricity.

A production section superintendent subsequently directed employees to place all the carbonyl cylinders in drums and temporarily bury the drums outside in a pit.

Thirteen hours after the guards first discovered flames, firefighters succeeded in totally extinguishing the fire at 11:28 a.m. on September 12.

EASTER HAZMAT - 1983

Photo: Denver Fire Department
On Easter Sunday 1983, Denver's hazmat team used ingenuity to contain a spill from a ruptured railroad tank car that set off a poisonous plume. 

They employed a diesel snow blaster from Stapleton Airport to pour piles of a neutralizing soda ash on 20,000 gallons of nitric acid deposited on the grounds of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad yard, Fire Engineering magazine reported.

A late season snowfall also helped dampen the effects, United Press International reported. 


According to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the accident: "The switch crew was moving 17 cars when a coupler broke on the 4th car, leading to an undetected separation of 150 feet between the 3rd and 4th cars.

"The engineer, responding to a hand lamp signal from the foreman, accelerated the locomotive, with a caboose, an empty freight car, and a loaded tank car coupled ahead.

"The loaded tank car impacted a fourth car at a speed of about 10-12 mph."


A fire accompanied the spill.

Billows of the chemical
prompted the evacuation of as many as 9,000 people, based on NTSB estimates.

Fumes threatened downtown Denver and closed Interstates 25 and 70.


"The one tremendous break that we got was that the wind was blowing to the south down the Platte River Valley, which acted to contain the hazardous yellow cloud in an area that is very sparsely populated," Denver Fire Chief Myrle K. Wise wrote in Fire Engineering.


United Press International reported: "
Civil Defense sirens, police with loudspeakers and radio broadcasts were credited with giving residents quick warning so they could escape."

Nonetheless, 34 people were injured, the NTSB said. 


The New York Times reported: "Many people appeared to ignore the hazard. Several churches in central Denver went ahead with Easter morning services as scheduled."

Easter Sunday 1983 fell on April 3.

Initial Fire Department Response - 4:11 a.m.

Pumpers 9, 4, 7
Truck 4
District Chief 6

Hazmat Response
Station 6, Squad 1

According to The Chemical Company: "Nitric acid is used in the production of ammonium nitrate for fertilizers, making plastics, and in the manufacture of dyes. It is also used for making explosives such as nitroglycerin and TNT."

Monday, October 7, 2019

BILLINGS REFINERY - 1935

Photo: Western Heritage Center
On July 26, 1935, a fire and explosion at the Yale Oil Co. refinery near Billings, Montana, killed four people and injured five others, according to the Billings Gazette.  A welding torch ignited fumes in an empty railroad tank car. Firefighter Lucien B. Smith lost his brother, Leon, in the blaze, according to the Gazette. It was Smith's first fire.

Friday, October 4, 2019

DIA HOME TO 5,000TH OSKOSH

Photo: Denver Fire Department
Oshkosh Airport Products delivered its 5,000th aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle to Denver International Airport in September. Oshkosh manufactured its first ARFF rig in 1953. DIA's Striker 8x8 features twin rear-mounted engines. The Denver Fire Department operates five airport stations, numbered 31-35.