Mayday Monday: Remembering the Worcester (MA) Tragedy

Mayday Monday on Worcester LODDs
Mayday Monday on Worcester LODDs

It’s December and 2020 is almost over. I hope you all had a chance to view the inaugural Mayday Monday podcast.  If you did not, you can watch it. It was great to learn more about Chicago Captain Herbie Johnson and the Chicago Fire Department

This month we remember a fire that happened in December of 1999. It has been 21 years since a fire in Worcester, Massachusetts, killed six firefighters. The fire occurred in the vacant Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse building, a maze-like, windowless structure built in 1905. A homeless couple knocked over a candle igniting a blaze that would, eventually, reach five alarms and take six lives.

Fire Engineering/YouTube

During the  search for the seat of the fire, it is reported that some of the firefighters were operating in moderate smoke conditions without the use of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). When conditions changed, they were caught off guard and scrambled for safety, some going deeper into the building. We must use the SCBA whenever we are in a smoke condition.  Our SCBA is what keeps us alive in the IDLH atmosphere we work in. Here are links to the NIOSH report and an article about the Worcester tragedy:


The Perfect Fire

While a lot of us cannot relate to a cold storage warehouse fire, we can certainly apply lessons learned about SCBA use and familiarization. No one is too familiar with their SCBA! This month we will revisit a Mayday Monday favorite skill/drill, the “Shake and Bake” drill. Here is a review of the training setup: 

  • Best for about four members.
  • Get four SCBA and break them down into their parts, 1) regulator, 2) harness, 3) cylinder (include two empty cylinders), and 4) face piece.  Let members keep their face piece.
  • Place all of the parts into a big pile or scattered in a room.
  • The four members will enter the room wearing blacked-out face pieces and search for the SCBA parts.
  • Once they have located all of the components, assemble and don the SCBA.
  • Members with the empty cylinders will need to buddy breath.
  • Leave the room.

This is a great, quick drill to emphasize the importance of knowing your SCBA.  Please send me pictures or videos of you and your crew performing the Shake and Bake drill.  Send them to



Video: The Worcester 6: Heroes Remembered

Review Of Deadly 1999 Worcester (MA) Fire Provides Insight Into Lessons Learned

Cold Storage Warehouse Fire: Learning from Worcester

Tony Carroll is a battalion chief with the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.


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