Wooster Street Collapse February 14, 1958


Wooster Street Collapse February 14, 1958

Killed in the Line of Duty

Ladder 20, Firefighter Bernard Blumenthal FDNY
Ladder l, Firefighter William Schmid FDNY
Fire Patrol # 1, Sargent Michael McGee
Fire Patrol # 1, Patrolman Louis Brusati
Fire Patrol # 1, Patrolman James Devine
Fire Patrol # 1, Patrolman Michael Tracey

Box 55-334

Two-FDNY firefighters venting the roof, and four member of Fire patrol # 1 placing salvage covers were buried alive when all floors and the roof suddenly collapsed in a burning 6 story, 80x100 foot, heavy timber construction, loft building in "Hells' hundred acres"lower Manhattan.
The fire occurred at 2215 hours, in a baled paper storage building located at 137-9 Wooster Street, between West Houston and Prince Street.
Location of fire: First floor up the shaft to the top floor
Location of the Collapse: All floors number 2 to 6 and the roof suddenly collapsed
Fire Building Construction: 137-9 Wooster street: A one hundred year old six story 80x100 foot, commercial storage building was constructed with cast iron columns on the lower floors supporting heavy timber, wood columns and wood girders on the upper floors.

Cause of the fire: Unknown
Cause of the collapse: The age of the building, overloaded floors ( heavy storage of large rolled paper), fire destruction, water weight from hose streams, failure of cast iron columns.
Fuel of the fire: Occupancy fuel load of large rolls of paper storage; structure fuel load of heavy timber wood floors, columns girders and beams.
Hells Hundred Acres: There is an area in lower Manhattan where so many firefighters have been killed battling fires it was named Hell's Hundred Acres. This area contains century old buildings built around the time of the civil war. Rag storage, baled goods, paper rolls and heavy machinery overloaded the sagging floors of these hundred year old storage buildings. Creaking wooden stairs lead down to old stone walled sub cellars. During fires, floors firefighters Water filled cellars drown firefighters; backdraft explosions blow firefighters out windows. Hells Hundred Acres is an area bounded by Chamber Street on the south, the Bowery on the east, West Broadway on the west and West 8th.street on the north. Today, this area has become a fashionable art district; the rag storage buildings have been replaced with wealthy artist residents. Many of the buildings are now renovated and sprinklered. But the buildings are the same deadly, century old, and structures. The wood timber floors rotting, brick mortar turning to sand, rusted old, iron fire escapes collapsing and cast iron columns ready to shatter and cave in during a fire.

Summary of Wooster Street collapse by Deputy Chief Vincent Dunn, FDNY (Ret)
For additional information : WNYF magazine April 1958 pages 4-5

[Return to Main page]