Nine Lynn Firemen Injured in Building Collapse
A spectacular fire in a crowded residential area of Lynn, Mass., shortly after 1:00 P.M. on October 2, 1956, resulted in the injury of nine fire fighters, including a district fire chief, when the roof and walls of a large garage-barn collapsed onto the men. But for the timely warning of Lynn’s fire chief, Joseph E. Scanlon, there might have been many fatalities.
Three young children, playing with matches, were blamed for the fire which they set in the structure—and for others which did not result so seriously. A passerby noticed the converted barn on fire and rushed to the house of the owner to give the alarm. The owner’s wife attempted to use the telephone for this purpose but the phone wires, which were connected to the garage, had by then burned off and the phone was inoperative. Finally, neighbors rushed to Box 431, Nahant and Olean streets and turned in the first alarm.
First-arriving Lynn fire fighters, noting the involvement and the exposed frame structures only inches away from the involved building, sounded second and third alarms, bringing a heavy complement of fire fighters. By the time these forces were on the scene, two other dwellings and a second garage-barn had caught. However, firemen, by fast work, were able to extinguish these fires and prevent’ further damage to exposures. Complete extinguishment of the main body of fire was accomplished in about an hour and a half.
Prior to the collapse of the fully involved frame garage bam. District Chief Thomas F. Kieley and a crew of masked fire fighters were attacking the fire from the interior while Chief Scanlon directed operations from outside. It was while he was placing companies rolling in on the multiple alarms that he noticed a large section of the slate-roofed structure had been so heavily burned that a collapse was imminent. He immediately ordered all hands out of the building. Chief Kieley withdrew his men from within the structure and stationed them outside. Hardly had he done so, when with a roar, the heavy roof section pitched forward and crashed to the ground. Men operating on the upper section of the building were thrown into burning debris as their ladders gave way, and those operating with Chief Kieley were wholly or partially buried under wreckage. With the failure of the roof section the walls gave way, further trapping some personnel.
Firemen, policemen and spectators rushed to extricate the helpless men. Ambulances were called on the area’s mutual aid plan, from Revere, Everett, Saugus, Peabody, Lynnfield, Swampscott, Nahant and Marblehead. The Metropolitan Police, American Red Cross and area Civil Defense units also responded.
Nine fire fighters were taken to the hospital and eight more were treated for injuries at the scene of the accident and remained on duty. Three of those hospitalized were placed on the serious list.
Officials said the fire was fed by stored furniture, paint and gasoline from an automobile, which was consumed in the garage. One of the exposed buildings, a large garage-barn, used as a warehouse by a funeral director, contained about 20 costly caskets. Firemen and volunteers from the more than 2,000 spectators, assisted in removing them when it appeared that the fire would involve their storage building. However, fire fighters speedily confined the blaze.
Police, following clues provided by neighbors, located the three young culprits and took them into custody. The City of Lynn, seriously concerned with the rash of fires started by children, has intensified its efforts at reducing such incidents, through campaigns of education in the schools.