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46th Anniversary of New York City's 23rd Street Fire

October 17, 2012 – October 17 marks the 46th anniversary of the 23rd Street Fire in New York City where 12 members of Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Local 94 and Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854 were killed in the line of duty. Until September 11, 2001, it was the heaviest loss of life in FDNY history.

“No matter how many years pass, the enormity of this tragedy will never diminish,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “Perhaps the best way to remember our fallen brothers is to continue our hard work to ensure fire fighters are safe on the job.”

On that day, fire fighters were called to a four-story brownstone on East 22nd Street in Manhattan. When they arrived, the intensity of the fire made it impossible make entry from the 22nd Street side, so fire fighters tried to go in the structure through the building next to it – the Wonder Drug Store on East 23rd Street.

Looking inside the drug store, fire fighters only saw small amounts of smoke, so they pulled in their hoses and began trying to break through one of the two buildings’ common walls to gain direct access to the fire.

What they did not know was that the fire originated in the cellar that the brownstone and the Wonder Drug Store shared. The fire weakened the floor’s wooden support beams, causing the floor to collapse. Ten fire fighters were killed when they fell into the cellar. Two others were killed in a flashover on the first floor.

Those killed in the fire included Deputy Chief Thomas Reilly and Fire Fighter William McCarron, both of Division 3; Battalion Chief Walter Higgins of Battalion 7; Lieutenant Joseph Priore, Fire Fighter James Galanaugh, Fire Fighter Joseph Kelly, Fire Fighter Daniel Rey and Fire Fighter Bernard Tepper, all of Engine 18; and Lieutenant John Finley, Fire Fighter John Berry, Fire Fighter Rudolph Kaminsky and Fire Fighter Carl Lee, all of Ladder 7.

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