Sunday, July 3, 2016

Amanuensis Monday - The Firemen Lost in Chicago 1924

The Belvidere Daily Republican,
Belvidere, IL - 19APR1924, pg1
A follow up to a Memorial Monday post in April where it was noted that numerous fire fighters from union L2 in Illinois were lost in a single event. This is the story of their loss.

"Fire Killing Eight Believed Due to Arson

Arrest Three Seeking Plot to Gain $32,000 of Insurance

Chicago's tragical fire followed by swift action that places three men under arrest when police follow trail of recently place insurance policy - firemen crushed when explosion wrecks walls of burning structure

(Special by the United Press.)

Chicago, April 19 - Arson was suspected by police today in the fire which last night gutted a four story building here, killing eight firemen, one civilian, and injuring 20 others, some perhaps fatally.

Search of the ruins continues, police and firemen fearing others, still unaccounted for, may have been trapped when a terrific explosion caused the walls to billow out and then collapse.

The explosion occurred on the second floor while firemen were swarming all over the building.

The dead:

Captain John J. Brennan, 40
Michael Devine, 34.
Lieut. Frank Frosh, 37.
Thomas Kelley, 51.
Edward Kersting, 38.
Francis S. Leavey, 37.
Samuel T. Warren, 40.
Jeremiah Callaghan, 40.
William Derh, 40**

The structure was known as the Curran building, located on Blue Island avenue, on the south side. Fire, apparently insignificant, broke out last evening. Within a few minutes the fire was raging through the entire structure.

Scores of pieces of fire apparatus were brought to the scene.

Blast Shatters Building

Several firemen were on the upper floors, others were on the ground floor, and still others were perched on ladders leaning against the walls and on a water tower rearing its head a few feet from the building when, without a second of warning, a terrific explosion shook the building; the walls bulged out and then caved to the ground.

The roof and upper floors crashed through to the basement, carrying the tortured, living freight. Shrieks of agony pierced the gale-like roar of the flames and earth-shaking crash of falling brick, concrete, steel and timbers.

Heroes to the rescue

Scenes of unsurpassed heroism followed. Policemen and firemen, undaunted by the leaping flames and falling debris, rushed into the roaring furnace. Most of those on the injured list were dragged from the ruins and owe their lives to the prompt and courageous work of the rescuers.

Doctors, internes (sic) and nurses were summoned and the men received first aid in the glare of the fire.

A priest, Father E. A. Jones of the Holy Family church, walked calmly through the excitement, delivering the last sacrament to the dying.

Patrolman Thomas Kelley, Jr., giving assistance wherever needed, came on one little group and broke through to see if the could help and found his father dead, in the center.

Ride Falling Wall

Lieut. John Kaminiski and John Courtney of a fire insurance truck, had a miraculous escape from death. They were on the third floor when the explosion occurred. They rode the falling wall to the street and while rendered unconscious they were not badly hurt. Police were told that owners of the Curran building had aroused the enmity of many persons by planning to rent the upper floors of the structure to negroes. Police also were told that several persons, acting suspiciously, had been seen near the building just before the fire.

Separate investigations are under way by police, the fire marshal and the coroner.
The Belvidere Daily Republican,
Belvidere, IL - 19APR1924, pg2

Three Suspects Arrested

Police today took into custody Samuel Moore, Leo Unell and Samuel Palinski in connection with their investigation of arson.

Moore and Unell, proprietors of the Moore-Unell Novelty company, owners of part of the structure, took out $32,000 fire insurance several days ago, police said.

Palinski, police said, held the policy in lieu of a mortgage on the company's stock. Adolph Friedman, proprietor of another shop in the building, told police that an hour and a half before the fire broke out Moore asked him if all the tenants were out of the building."

Makes for a dramatic story. With the tragedy and heroism of fire fighters is the story of racism (how dare they think to rent to blacks! *gasp*) and greed. Had they not been so greedy these people would have lived longer lives.

** William Derh is not listed on the IAFF memorial and should be the civilian listed in the article. It is possible that James Carroll was also a casualty who isn't listed here. He was listed with the rest of the group on the memorial. He may have died from injuries later, was found later, or was a casualty in a separate fire and just happened to be listed next in the series on the panel.

IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Panel 1923-1924