Retired FDNY Battalion Chief Larry Byrnes Passes Away

By Jack J. Murphy

A Fire Department of New York (FDNY) 9/11 icon from the French video tape of that day passed away on Sunday, June 14, 2015.

Battalion 1 Chief Larry Byrnes retired from the FDNY in 1999 after 40 years of service. Yet on 9/11 this did not deter him from responding.

On the famous tape by Jules Naudet showing a fire response for a manhole fire when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC), Chief Byrnes is the one who comes into Battalion 1 quarters, grabs a chief’s bell cap off the bunker gear rack, and is ready to go. On the way out, the young probie ask the chief what he should do; the chief just says, “Stick with me, kid. Let’s go.”

Larry was instrumental in coordinating one WTC sector to get back on its feet over the next number of days. When a group of victims were discovered in a stairwell, the building blueprints did not match the stairwell identification number. Before GIS mapping was set up, a call was placed by FDNY Special Ops to the high-rise fire safety director’s association to reach out for the current blueprints showing the numerical stairs. A call was made to Chief Byrnes; this was Byrnes’s response district, and he knew the WTC like the back if his hand.  He had a current set of plans and headed back into the city.

When asked a month or so later by a reporter why he responded after retiring, Larry simply replied: “Firefighters never retire, we just go away for a while.” 

Chief Byrnes was a humble man, and always willing to share his knowledge with others.


JACK J. MURPHY, MA, a 31-plus-year-veteran of the fire service, is a principal in Jack J. Murphy (JJM) & Associates, LLC, consultants in fire and life safety practices. He was the director of life safety for Webvan Group in Foster City, California; vice president-corporate global life safety for Citigroup in New York City; and fire safety director for The New York Hospital/Cornell University Medical Center. He is an editorial advisory board member of Fire Engineering. He has been an adjunct lecturer for Kean University (NJ) on fire code enforcement, fire inspection techniques, and suppression since 1991 and an adjunct professor for the NJ Division of Fire Safety and the City University of New York-John Jay College of Criminal Justice Fire Science Program. He is the fire marshal for and a retired deputy chief of the Leonia (NJ) Fire Department. He is the New Jersey deputy fire coordinator for the Bergen region. He is the author of RICS/Rapid Incident Command System (Fire Engineering, 1998) and the Pre-Incident Planning chapter in Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II. He was the recipient of Fire Engineering’s Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement award in 2012.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said Chief Byrnes passed on June 24.


  • JACK J. MURPHY , MA, is a retired fire marshal and a former deputy chief. He is the chairman of the New York City High-Rise Fire Safety Directors Association, a member of the NFPA High-Rise Building Safety Advisory, and a member of the 1620 Pre-Incident Planning Committees. He has authored RICS: Rapid Incident Command System Field Handbook , wrote the Preincident Planning chapter of Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II , and coauthored Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings . He contributes articles to Fire Engineering . He was the recipient of the 2012 Fire Engineering Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award .

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