December 3 marks the 20th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire, which claimed the lives of six Worcester, MA Local 1009 members – Thomas Spencer, Paul Brotherton, Timothy Jackson, Jeremiah Lucey, James Lyons and Joseph McGuirk.
“These six men fought courageously until the end,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “The IAFF and our members will never forget their sacrifice. They will forever be missed.”
A special ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., in Worcester with thousands of fire fighters and civilians marching from the Union Street fire station to the Franklin Street fire station. The Franklin Street station, along with a special memorial, was built where the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse once stood.
”I’ll never forget where I was standing on December 3, 1999, when I learned fire fighters were missing in Worcester,” says General Secretary-Treasurer Kelly. “For many of us on the job at that time, the Worcester Cold Storage Fire was etched into us as a stark reminder of how costly the job can be. The legacy of the Worcester Six was not only improvements in training, equipment, thermal imaging and incredible advocacy for the gross underfunding of the fire service through the Leary Foundation, but the fact that seven of their sons chose to carry on their father’s calling as Worcester Jakes.”
The 1999 fire started when two homeless people knocked over a candle. As the blaze grew, Worcester and neighboring fire companies were called to respond. When fire fighters arrived, the people were thought to still be inside.
The building’s structure was a complicating factor. It was designed to maintain cold temperatures and there were no windows. But, on the day of the fire, the building held in the heat and smoke.
The six inside made repeated mayday calls and activated audible location alarms, but fire fighters outside the warehouse could not reach them in time.
Since the Worcester tragedy, Local 1009 has lost three other members in the line of duty: Jon D. Davies Sr. (2011), Christopher Roy (2018) and Jason Menard (2019).