Second Detroit Firefighter Death On Duty in 2 Days

Another Sad Day For the Detroit Fire Department

Once again central office has delivered a radio message no firefighter wants to hear. fireboat   For the second time in 2 days the Detroit Fire Department grieves the lost another member who died while on duty. Walter Szelag, Captain of Fire Boat 1, passed away from what appears to be a heart attack. At approximately 4:15 pm, November 20, 2015 crew members radioed for an ambulance to be sent to the fire boat station. Captain Szelag was transported to Detroit Receiving Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  At 5:47 pm department radios delivered the sad news. "“Central office regrets to inform you of the untimely death of Capt. Walter Szelag of Fire Boat 1.” One firefighter reported that this was Captain Szelag's last scheduled shift of the season before the Fire Boat is shut down for the winter.

Related Story: Funeral Arrangements For 2 Detroit Fire Department Members Who Died While On Duty

Captain Szelag's death comes on the heals of another Detroit Firefighter death. Just 2 days prior, November 18, 2015, Sgt. Vincent "Vinny" Smith passed away while on duty at Engine 48's quarters.  
Vinny Smith

Vincent "Vinny" Smith on the roof while he was a firefighter at Ladder 19.

He was found at approximately 7:30 am seated in his recliner.  At this point there an official cause of death has not been released, his death also appears to be from a heart attack. Vinny served on the department for 23 years and was currently assigned to L-13. Sgt. Smith leaves behind a wife and 5 children.  

Related Story: Funeral Arrangements For 2 Detroit Fire Department Members Who Died While On Duty

   

Locomotive Hits Hook & Ladder Company 5: Detroit Fireman Killed

LODD Anthony Korte May, 17, 1895

Detroit Fire Department History – March 7, 1895 An accident caused the death of one Detroit Fireman and injured 8 others. At 3:23 am, Hook and Ladder Company #5 was called to a fire at 1036 St. Aubin Avenue, Box 273.  The regular driver was on leave and Ladderman Anthony Kort took his place. After extinguishing the fire and picking up, Ladder 5 headed back to their station shortly after 4 am. They crossed the Detroit, Grand Haven & Milwaukee Railroad tracks at Canfield Avenue.  A careless watchman had been taken ill and had to leave his post. He neglected to lower the crossing gates before leaving.  The rig was struck by a locomotive. Crew members later stated they had not heard a locomotive whistle or bell that would have indicated the train was approaching.
1890-ladder-truck-Detroit-Fire-Department

Detroit Fire Department Hook and Ladder Company - 1890

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Detroit Firemen Ride To Fire In 116 Taxis

Today in Detroit Fire Department History – March 4, 1957 Detroit firemen reported in style to a four-alarm blaze today. They used 116 taxicabs to reach a fire in a two-story building that  caused damage estimated by Fire Chief Edward J. Blohm at $50,000. taxi The fire was still burning when a new shift of firemen reported for duty at 8 a.m. Since all their trucks and other equipment were at the scene, the reporting firefighters hailed taxicabs to carry them to the blazing building. The firemen going off duty used the taxis to return to their stations. A tally on the city's taxicab cost was not immediately available. Source: The Escanaba Daily Press, March 4, 1957  

5 Detroit Firemen Killed In The Line Of Duty – March 4, 1917

Today in Detroit Fire Department History – March 4, 1917 Five Detroit Firefighters were killed and 3 others were seriously injured while fighting a fire in the Fields Cloak & Suit Company. The building was located at 187 Woodward Ave, which was then the center of the downtown business district. Fire was reported around 2 am. About a half an hour into fighting the fire the 3 lower floors of the 5 story building collapsed without warning. They carried 20 firemen down in the wreckage. Two firefighters were also thrown from a ladder to the sidewalk from the 3rd story.
1917 fields suit and cloak fire aftermath

Aftermath of the Fields Suit and Cloak building fire where 5 Detroit Firemen were killed.

 

Buried Beneath the Collapse

Several firefighters were buried beneath a mass of twisted timer and steel ceilings. Vincent Gordon was pulled out virtually uninjured a few minutes after the crash. About two minutes later Ladderman Oscar Locke, Hook & Ladder 1, was uncovered. He was dead. Pipeman Otto Mattick, Flying Squadron 30, who had been crushed and overcome by smoke died 30 minutes after being discovered. Captain Alexander Cockburn, Engine 2, was able to direct rescuers to his place of entrapment for an hour before he was discovered. He died from his injuries after being admitted to Receiving Hospital. Pipeman Alonzo Raymond, Engine 2, and Pipeman William Schill also died in the collapse. Firefighters and policemen searched feverishly for the 4 men still buried in the ruins for four hours before all were uncovered. The fire also consumed the top floor of the R. H. Fyfe Shoe Company building to the south. Monetary loss from fire and water damage was estimated at $500,000.

Findings of the Coroner's Inquest

A few weeks after the fire a coroner's inquest was convened. Architect Adolph Eisen testified that the joists of the third and fourth floors were made of soft pine and were not strong enough to hold the floors. Charles Hassenbach, secretary/treasure of the Fields Company also testified that the third floor of the building had sagged about an inch, but no one paid attention to it. He also testified that the building inspector had never inspected the building. The building had been owned by E. Van Noorden and Edward Rintels of Boston.  

Never Forget

In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice to the citizens of Detroit: Captain Alexander Cockburn, Engine 2 Ladderman Oscar J. Locke, Hook and Ladder 1 Pipeman Alonzo F. Raymaon, Engine 2 Pipeman William J. Schill, Flying Squadron 30 Pipeman Otto A. Mattick, Flying Squadron 30

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10 Detroit Firemen Trapped on Top Floor of Building – March 3, 1909

Today in Detroit Fire Department History, March 3, 1909 Ten men faced death on the top floor of a three-story power building Tuesday when they were cut off from escape by fire on the lower floors. Several of them tried to jump from the windows, but were restrained by their champions until the firemen rescued them with ladders. All suffered smoke and heat, but none with serious results. Source: The Huntington Herald, March 3, 1909  1911 postcard fighting the flames

Chief 4 Bauman Injured – March 3, 1958

Today in Detroit Fire Department History, March 3, 1958 Fred Bauman, Chief of Detroit Fire Batallion 4, was injured seriously today when a fire-weakened second floor on which he was standing gave way, hurling him 16 fee to the ground floor. Bauman, 56, fell at Irving School after the building had been ransacked and set afire by vandals.  He suffered multiple fractures of the left side and possible spinal injuries. Firemen estimated damage at $25,000. Source: Ironwood Daily Globe, March 3, 1958   Irving School was located at 94 W. Willis, between Woodward and Cass.   This area is now the 1st Battalion. The building was originally built in 1882 and served for years as a K-6 elementary school .
irving elementary school

Irving Elementary School

 

36 Firemen All “Burned Up”

Today in Detroit Fire Department History - March 3, 1958 Thirty-six Detroit Firemen were plenty burned up today. The members of Engine Co. 31 and Rescue Squad 4 each recently chipped in $6 to by a 24-inch table model television set.  The settled down to watch a favorite program when they got a fire call - a flase alarm.

1958 Philco table top television set.

It took the firemen only seven minutes to make the three-mile round trip.  But when they returned they found they had missed not only the program.  The TV set was gone. Some one had taken it. Source: The Sandusky Register- March 3, 1958  

Detroit Firefighter Line of Duty Death – Michael Johnson

Today in DFD history - December 12, 1977

 

Detroit Fire Department Firefighter Michael L. Johnson made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of Detroit. At the time of his death Michael was assigned to Ladder 11.

michael johnson

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Firemen's Fund Association history book.

On December 12, 1977 at 9:57 am Ladder 11 responded to an alarm of a fire at 3433 E. Warren. Ladder 11 proceeded out of quarters, turning left on Milwaukee. Firefighter Johnson was the tillerman of Ladder 11. Firefighter Johnson signaled the driver with 2 beeps of the buzzer that he was ready for the rig to move.

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136 Gifts for Firefighters

If your loved one is a firefighters there's a possibility he's been hiding something from you. He hates the firefighting related gifts he receives. He knows that the people who give them had the best of intentions.  But let's be real.  Exactly how many statues of Dalmatians next to a fire hydrant does one person need? With this in mind, I've put together a huge list of gift ideas that your firefighter will truly love.

 

 

1. Vintage fire department collectables

Fire alarm pull boxes, brass nozzles and vintage department photos are just some of the items that can be found on ebay. I would avoid badges and patches unless your firefighter is a badge or patch collector. nozzles A word of warning: some items on ebay are listed from specific departments (especially large departments like Detroit and FDNY) may not be from those departments.  Do your homework, and read descriptions very carefully.

Handy Tools for Firefighters

2. Glove Strap

This handy strap will keep gloves together and ready for use, and frees up pocket space in bunker gear. 

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