Buffalo Box 191 North Division & Grosvenor Streets; December 27, 1983

Buffalo Box 191

December 27, 1983 Buffalo, New York Five Firefighter Line-of-Duty Deaths

As Buffalo (NY) firefighters arrived at the scene of a reported propane leak in a three-story radiator warehouse (Type III Ordinary and Type IV Heavy Timber construction), a massive explosion occurred, killing five firefighters instantly and injuring nine others, three of them critically. The force of the blast blew BFD Ladder 5′s tiller aerial 35 feet across the street into the front yard of a dwelling. BFD Engine 1′s pumper was also blown across the street with the captain and driver pinned in the cab with burning debris all around them. Engine 32′s engine was blown up against a warehouse across a side street and covered with rubble.

Two civilians were also killed and another 60 to 70 were injured. While operating at the rescue effort, another 19 firefighters were injured. The blast and ensuing fire ignited 14 residences and damaged as many as 130 buildings over a four block area. The explosion occurred when an employee was moving an illegal 500-lb. propane tank with a forklift truck and dropped it, breaking off a valve. The gas leaked out, found an ignition source, and the explosion occurred.

At 20:23 hours, a full assignment was dispatched to North Division & Grosvenor streets. The three engines, two trucks, rescue and 3rd Battalion were responding to a report of a large propane tank leaking in a building. Engine 32 arrived and reported nothing showing, but they were talking to some workmen from the four-story, heavy-timber warehouse (approx. 50′ x 100′). Truck 5, Engine 1 and BC Supple arrived right behind E-32. Thirty-seven seconds after the chief announced his arrival, there was a tremendous explosion.

It completely leveled the four-story building. It demolished many buildings on four different blocks. It seriously damaged buildings that were over a half a mile away. The ensuing fireball started buildings burning on a number of streets. A large gothic church on the next block had a huge section ripped out of it as if a great hand carved out the middle. A ten-story housing projects a couple blocks away had every window broken and some had even more damage. Engine 32 and Truck 5′s firehouse, which was a half mile away or so, had all its windows shattered.

Killed in the line of duty were all assigned to Buffalo FD Ladder Company 5;

  • Firefighter Michael Austin,
  • Firefighter Michael Catanzaro,
  • Firefighter Matthew Colpoys,
  • Firefighter James Lickfield and
  • Firefighter Anthony Waszkielewicz.

Memorial
A memorial to the five members of Buffalo Fire Department Ladder Co. 5 and the two civilians who were killed sits at fire call box 191 at the intersection of N. Division and Grosvenor streets. Each year on Dec. 27, at 2020 HRS, the fire department rings out the alarm 1-9-1 to honor the five firefighters of Ladder 5.

1 Comment

  • Phillip A. Bobrowski says:

    First Paramedic Unit from Gold Cross Ambulance dispatched. Treated 3 of the fallen Firefighters and remained on-scene until relieved at 8:00 AM. I had just graduated ECC Paramedic Class in the previous June. It was the longest night of my career.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Chris Naum

Taking it to the Streets on BlogTalk Radio

banner ad The Newest radio show on FireFighter Netcast.com at Blogtalk Radio… Taking it to the Streets with Christopher Naum. On the Air Monthly on Firefighter Netcast.com. A Buildingsonfire.com Series and Firefighter Netcast.com Production. Advancing Firefighter Safety and Operational Integrity for the Fire Service through provocative insights and dynamic discussions dedicated to the Art and Science of Firefighting and the Traditions of the Fire Service.

Buildingsonfire.com

banner ad

Fire & Training with Chief Doug Cline

banner ad

Archives

FirefighterNetCast on Blog Talk Radio

Listen to internet radio with FirefighterNetCast on Blog Talk Radio

Connect with Buildingsonfire.com

banner ad

QR Code for Thecompanyofficer.com

Quick Response Code qrcode

FireEMS Blogs eNewsletter

Sign-up to receive our free monthly eNewsletter

LATEST FIREFIGHTER NEWS

HOT FORUM DISCUSSIONS

LATEST ON FIRE ENGINEERING

FEATURED DISCUSSIONS