Firegrounders Past for Present

By Josh Barr

The Philadelphia (PA) Bureau Fire Training School Class of 1940, taken December 5, 1940, at Frank Palumbo’s Restaurant at Eighth and Catharine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(click on photo to enlarge image)

Al Barr – Class of 1940


Filled nearly to capacity, it’s the fifth-most populous city in the nation.

And, many of those doing the populating do so in 19th century designed and built structures.

Many of those buildings—laced snugly within tight streets and alleyways, many of which hang on hills.

Summer’s onslaught brings underworldly temperatures—heat and humidity partner for strength- and morale-sapping heat indices, making predicting the area’s notoriously unpredictable weather a blind stab.

The duo combine for deadly disservice—fireground heat exhaustion, equipment failure, to name just two.

Winter’s wrath often couples high winds with freezing temps, ice and snow. Fallen mercury hangs up its climbing boots and turns a blind eye.

City streets double as black diamond ski trails. Feet-long icicles overhang street and sidewalk, threatening death, prompting vigilant travel, on foot, in vehicle. Nature’s killing prowess looms, visible, tangible.

In short: Philadelphia is a city jam-packed in straw houses with many a different big bad wolf at doorstep.

Further complicating matters: another wolf, the arsonist, the only wolf with a conscience—yet, also, the only wolf who consciously does the unconscionable.

According to a 2011 article on WHYY’s NewsWorks, Pennsylvania leads the nation in arson deaths per year with more than 55. A finding neither brotherly nor loving.

Nor conducive to peace of mind—for citizen and firefighter alike.

And it wasn’t much different in and around 1940. The collective pictured above fought amid much of the same—but while wearing and using equipment far less comfortable, effective or protective as today’s.

Among them, fought Aloysius Barr of Roxborough.

Braving smoke and flame on row home flat roofs and Delaware-sat fireboats, in towering Center City skyscrapers and unreasonably tight Manayunk back alleys, Al, put his life on the line.

To protect always proud, always demanding citizens. To provide for his family. To honor his profession.

And he did so for more than 32 years, never expecting—just doing.

Selflessness personified. Firefighting at its core.

Al Barr
(1914 – 1995)






Barr and brethren have much company, and FE wants to honor that company; the firefighters you know and love who fought to save life and limb and set example for ‘fighter and kin, long, long ago.”

There is no cost. We’re looking for academy classes who graduated in 1960 and prior.

Track down the academy grad photo, or another photo showing the class in full, and contact FE’s Josh Barr at (856) 340-1768 or email; put “FE Firegrounders” in your email’s subject line.

You can also visit Josh’s FE Community Page to discuss the Philadelphia Bureau Fire Training School Class of 1940 and other stories from the fire service’s past at

Let’s get to honoring.


The Philadelphia Bureau Fire Training School Class of 1940, the school’s 62nd class
ARCHIBALD, William                  Truck 4
BANKHEAD, John                  Engine 20
BARNES, Harry                     Engine 52
BARR, Aloysius F.                 Engine 12
BERNER, Norman                  Engine 30
BERRY, James                       Engine 6
CAREY, Jr., Howard               Engine 38
COOK, Robert                         Truck 20
COSTELLO, Joseph                 Truck 22
COYLE, Charles                      Truck 11
DORAN, John                        Engine 46
DRISCOLL, Jr., James           Engine 43
DUFFY, Jr. Edward                Engine 57
DUGAN, William                    Engine 12
ECKLES, William                  Engine 43
FIX, Jack                              Engine 14
FLANNAGAN, Thomas          Engine 17
GALLAGHER, Edward                  P.L. 1
GOMMEL, Albert                   Engine 52
GOODMAN, Isadore               Engine 46
GREGOR, George                    Truck 15
GRUMM, Leonard                    Engine 4
HARKINS, John                     Engine 29
HASSETT, Charles                   Truck 29
HOFFMAN, Morris                 Engine 22
HOLLAND, Charles                Engine 16
JOFFE, Maxwell                         P.L. 2
KITCHEN, John                       Truck 22
KNOWLES, Nicholas            Engine 29
KRESS, Ralph                        Engine 2
LEACH, John                          Truck 20
LEONARD, John                    Engine 57
LISOVITCH, John                       Truck 4
LYNCH, Arthur                       Engine 57
MAWHINNEY, Wilson             Engine 50
McKERNAN, James                Engine 63
McNALLY, John                      Engine 67
O’BRIEN, William                    Engine 47
O’DRAIN, Howard                      Engine 2
O’NEILL, Charles                      Engine 53
OSUCH, Leon                            Engine 2
POOLE, William                       Engine 40
REEVES, David                        Engine 58
RIENISH, Lester                       Engine 41
RISSAKOW, Morris                  Engine 27
ROTOLONI, Emo                      Engine 29
SENDERLING, George              Engine 45
SCHRIVER, George                  Engine 14
SLOAN, James                           Truck 12
STECKER, Henry                        Truck 13
STRUBE, William                      Engine 23
SWENK, Shuman                       Engine 1
TRACEY, Joseph F.                  Engine 53
UHLL, William                           Engine 45
VAN HORN, Raymond              Engine 67
VOGENBERG, Frank                Engine 45
WANINGER, George                 Engine 29
WISNIEWSKI, Thomas                  Truck 4
ZORR, Carl                               Engine 33

Instructor: Chief Ferrier
Assistants:  Batalliion Chief Bull;
Captains Garner and Graef; and Lieutenants Farley, Kiney, and Price


Josh Barr is a 10-year freelance magazine writer and copywriter. He has published articles in regional, national, and international magazines; e-zines; journals; and entertainment weeklies on firefighting, business, technology, sports, art, music, overly-bearded bikers, and underappreciated chicken wings.  He is the grandson of the late Al Barr, who was a 32-year member of the Philadelphia (PA) Fire Department.  

Visit Josh’s page on the Fire Engineering Web site at

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