April Marks Centennial of Fire Tragedy

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It was April 13, 1910, when the New Haven Fire Department was turned upside down.  That was the day that the department suffered its worst loss of life.

Six firefighters were killed at the old County Jail in Whalley Avenue.  Five other firefighters were seriously injured in what is still the single greatest loss of life in the department's history, according to the New Haven Register.

Heavy metal doors and prison bars made the situation especially difficult.  A fire broke out in a storeroom at the prison.  As firefighters tried to put out the flames, several got trapped in a third floor prison chair shop.  The news only got worse when an exploding gas tank caused a backdraft that slammed a heavy metal door shut and trapped firefighters in the burning building, according to the Register.

The dead included Capt. Charles L. Chapman, 51, Lt. William Doherty, 51, ladderman John Buckley, 30, horseman James Cullen, 34; and James Mortell, 30, and Thomas McGrath, 33, both of Engine Company 4.

You can read more about the amazing acts of heroism from firefighters in the New Haven Register.

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