Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire


Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire

The Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire was a fire that began on December 3, 1999, in Worcester, Massachusetts. It started when two homeless and mentally disabled people, Thomas S. Levesque and Julie Ann Barnes, who were living inside the warehouse, knocked over a candle after an argument earlier in the afternoon. Both fled without reporting the fire to emergency services. The structure was located five blocks east of the Worcester central business district, near the Union Station train station and adjacent to Interstate highway 290. The fire would eventually grow to five-alarm status and rage for six days before being brought under control. Firefighting companies from the city and from neighboring towns were called to respond.

Reports that homeless people were possibly inside the engulfed warehouse caused fire-rescue personnel to search the six-story building. The searchers' task was made extremely difficult by the large size of the building's interior and the highly flammable composition of its insulation. Nearly a century old, the interior walls had been progressively covered with various forms of insulating materials, including cork impregnated with tar, polystyrene foam, and polyurethane foam, to a thickness of 18 inches. Once ignited, the large amount of fuel, fed initially by the large volume of air in the building, became virtually inextinguishable.

The six-story building's exterior walls were constructed of approximately 18 inches of brick and mortar, with no windows above the second floor. The lack of available windows prevented firefighting personnel from making an accurate initial assessment of the fire. Initial breaching of lower-floor doors, combined with venting the building by smashing an elevator-shaft roof skylight, effectively turned the building into a huge chimney. With the fire rapidly accelerating out of control, rescue teams facing near-zero visibility became lost with available breathing oxygen depleted. Despite repeated radio calls for help, along with activation of audible location alarms, six firefighters, who have since become known as the Worcester 6, perished in the blaze. [http://www.usfa.dhr.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tr-134.pdf] It took eight days to find and recover the remains of the six men.

Services for the firefighters were held in the DCU Center (then called the Worcester Centrum). The funeral procession was broadcast on several national news networks and was attended by President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator John Kerry (who flew overnight from Vietnam to attend the funeral).

City leaders plan to erect a memorial to the Six in Institute Park, behind the Grove Street fire station. A new fire station is currently under construction on the land formerly occupied by the cold storage facility, which was demolished immediately after the fire investigation.

Manslaughter charges against Levesque and Barnes were initially dismissed, but were reinstated on appeal. They received probation. Julie Ann Barnes was adopted by a family in Maine, the Kings, who had adopted Julie's sister.

The building's owners were not charged.

Timeline

The firefighters

References

*US Fire Administration Official *Report [http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tr-134-508.pdf]
*Telegram & Gazette - Worcester, MA [http://www.telegram.com/static/fire/]
*Firehouse.com's information page [http://www.firehouse.com/worcester/]
*Flynn, Sean. "3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men Who Fought It." New York: Warner Books, 2002. ISBN 0446528315

ee also

*Leary Firefighters Foundation
*Charleston Sofa Super Store fire

References

External links

* [http://fallen-heroes.org/ Fallen Heroes]
* [http://www.esquire.com/ESQ0700-ESQ12031_64 Flynn, Sean, "The Perfect Fire," "Esquire" magazine, July 2001]
* [http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/reports/face9947.html Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report]
* [http://www.fallen-heroes.org/ Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial Park]


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