It’s a somber day for firefighters all over NYC, as they commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 23rd Street Fire – which claimed more firefighters’ lives than any other disaster until the 9/11 attacks.
As crews arrived at the scene of the fire at a building on East 22nd Street on October 17, 1966, the source was not immediately obvious to them. Some firefighters went back around to 23rd street, where they pulled a hose through a drug store, to try and attack the fire from the rear– the NY Times reported.
Paint and lacquer was apparently burning in the 22nd St building, where an art dealer was storing supplies in the basement. Investigators later found out that the drug store shared that same basement, where an interior wall had recently been moved.
The floor of the drugstore was “poorly supported,” so as the fire raged below, the floor collapsed and 10 firefighters fell through. 12 members died in all– 2 chiefs, 2 lieutenants and 8 firefighters, the Times reported.
Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who became a firefighter three years after the tragedy, says he recalls the day vividly. His father was a captain at the time and he went to visit the scene the next day.
“Any time I go on 23rd Street, which is fairly frequent, whoever I’m with, I tell them” about the fire… Every once in a while, I see somebody who was there, and we talk about it,” Nigro said.
A bronze plaque hangs on a wall along 23rd Street which reads: “In tribute to our comrades.”
Today FDNY members gathered for a ceremony in front of the plaque, to honor the fallen, as they do every October 17.
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