CHIEF THOMAS R. MURPHY, OF SAN FRANCISCO, DEAD
Passes Away at His Home After a Long Illness, Caused by Inhaling Smoke From Creosoted Piles a Year Ago—His Career
THOMAS R. MURPHY, Chief of the San Francisco, Cal., Fire Department, and a former President of the I. A. F. C., died at his home in that city, after a long fight against failing health, on Monday, November 4. The cause of Chief Murphy’s illness arose from his devotion to duty. During a pier fire in October, 1928, he inhaled a quantity of the smoke from burning creosoted piles. In spite of this fact, the Chief continued on duty for twenty hours at this fire. On returning home, he complained of pains in his chest, and stomach poisoning developed. From that time his health gradually failed. He had been on a sick bed for several months before his death.
For thirty-seven years he was a member of the San Francisco Fire Department. He started as a driver in 1892, when he was 21 years old and was driving a team along the waterfront when the then Assistant Chief Sullivan offered him a chance to drive a fire team. Young Murphy jumped at it.
His first 24-hour watch was spent at No. 4 truck, then the assistant chief’s headquarters at Second and Howard streets. When he went home his mother was greatly disturbed. It was the first time young Tom had ever been out all night.
In 1897 Chief Murphy was made a captain. In 1905 he became battalion chief. It was while he occupied this position that he earned bis first national recognition. It was during the great conflagration of 1906. The Navy men from Mare Island were present in force offering every possible aid. Chief Dennis T. Sullivan was dead—killed on the first day of the great disaster. A Navy officer had stationed a number of his men on a burning building. Murphy advised him to get them away. They could do no good there, he said. The officer demurred.
“You go your way and I’ll go mine,” Murphy told him. “They can do no good there. Some of them will be killed. I’ll not be a party to it.”
The officer gave in. Shortly the building collapsed.
“You take command,” said the navy officer. “You know this game.”
They worked together effectively after that, and months later the Secretary of the Navy asked the mayor of San Francisco to have Murphy promoted, if it was possible. It was. He was made assistant chief.
In 1910 he became chief of the department.
In 1923 Chief Murphy was awarded a decoration and a diploma by the government of Paris, and has been honored by many others. During periods when he was in other parts of the country he worked tirelessly in the interests of San Francisco, where he was born in 1875.
Though Chief Murphy studiously avoided politics and political entanglements, he never hesitated to step to the forefront in the interests of his department, to make it more effective and to protect the rights and interests of his men. And when, after several months of his last illness, an attempt was made to remove him as chief because he was bedridden, the citizens of San Francisco voiced a protest that astonished those who sought to oust the stricken chief.
Chief Murphy was elected president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs in 1926 at the New Orleans Convention, and presided at the Portland Convention of the association in 1927.