The 23rd. Street Fire, October 17, 1966.

The Wonder Drug Store 6 East 23 Street

October 21,1966 Saint Patick's Cathedral

The 23 street Collapse

October 17,1966 Box 55 598

Killed in the line of duty

DC Thomas A Reilly, Division .3

BC Walter J Higgins, Battalion. 7

Lt John J Finley, Ladder 7

Lt Joseph Priore, Engine 18

Fr John G Berry, Ladder 7

Fr James V Galanaugh, Engine 18

Fr Rudolph F Kaminsky, Ladder 7

Fr Joseph Kelly, Engine 18

Fr Carl Lee Ladder, 7

Fr William F McCarron, Division 3

Fr Daniel L Rey, Engine 18

Fr Bernard A Tepper, Engine 18

Box 598 at 2136 hrs: The most deadly building collapse in the history of the Fire Department occurred at this alarm. Twelve firefighters were killed when the floor collapsed into the cellar. Two chiefs, two lieutenants, and six firefighters plunged into the flaming cellar. Two firefighters were killed by the blast of flame and heat on the first floor.

Location of Fire Origin: Cellar of 7 East 22 St.

Location of Collapse: First floor of Exposure 3 building: 6 East 23 St. "The Wonder Drug Store."

Fire Building Construction: 7 East 22 St: a brownstone, 20 x 60 brick and joist, four story residence. The cellar, where the fire started, and first floor were occupied by an art dealer.

Collapse Building Construction: 6 East 23 St: a five story, 45 x 100 commercial building, brick & joist construction. The rear, 16 x 35 foot, section of the first floor collapsed into the cellar occupied by 7 East 22 St.


(1) The fire building, 7 East 22 St, had a two story extension which abutted the rear of 6 East 23 St.

(2) The Cellar of 7 East 22 St extended under the first floor of 6 East 23 St for approximately 35 feet.

(3) The floor construction of 6 East 23 St was 3" x 14" wood beams topped by 3/4" wood planking. On top of this five inches of concrete with a terrazzo finish was added.

The firefighters in exposure 3, (6 East 23 St), killed in the collapse did not know they were operating directly over the cellar fire in 7 East 22 St. The five inch concrete terrazzo floor acted as an insulator. It concealed the severe fire and heat below. The 3 inch x 14 inch floor beams spaced 16 inches on center were reduced in size and strength by the fire. The first sign of weakness was the sudden collapse of a 15 x 35 foot section, which plunged the ten firefighters to their deaths. Two other firefighters were killed on the first floor by a ball of flame.

Cause of the .Fire: Unknown.

Cause of the Collapse: The fire burned for one hour, which reduced the

size and strength of the wood floor beams.

Fuel of Fire: Large storage of wood picture frames and their combustible finish, lacquer and paint.

Time of Collapse: The collapse occurred at approximately 2239 hrs, one hour and three minutes after the initial alarm of 2136 hrs.

Summary by: Vincent Dunn, Deputy Chief, FDNY, Division 3 (Ret)

For further reading:

W N Y F, 2ND Issue 1973: Page 13 Article by Joseph D'Albert, Eng. 24.

W N Y F, 4th Issue 1976: 'THE 23rd ST FIRE... as it happened' by Frank Cull.


Personal account of the 23rd Street Fire

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