Boston, MA Hotel Vendome Fire Kills Nine Firemen, June 1972

Hotel View Hotel View Vendome Memorial Site Hotel Vendome, late 1920s


By Ralph Jacobs
Sun Staff
Boston -- Five firefighters were killed and four others are missing and feared dead, and eight were injured late yesterday afternoon when a corner of the old Hotel Vendome collapsed during a multi-alarm fire and buried firefighters and an aerial ladder truck in the debris.

The cave-in occurred about 5:15 p.m., some two hours after the first alarm had been sounded. The hotel had been unoccupied for some time and a few workmen were engaged in changing it over to an apartment house when fire was discovered.

The fire appeared to be mainly in the upper floors of the seven-story structure and firemen were gaining the upper hand, it seemed, when a section of the wall collapsed.

Firefighters were unable to get out of the way of the debris which piled high on one group.

Firefighters not trapped in the debris toiled desperately to dig their comrades out of the bricks and stones, while ambulances responding on a disaster call took the seven injured to city hospitals.

Volunteers among the spectators joined in the search, and a heavy crane was brought into action in an attempt to clear away the debris under which it is feared the bodies of the missing four firefighters were buried.

The fire department chaplain, Msgr. JAMES KEATING, the AP reported, crawled into a hole in the rubble created by the digging firemen and administered last rites to two of the dead firemen whose bodies could not be immediately freed.

Another dead fireman was identified as JOHN BECKWITH, the father of two children.

At least eight injured firemen were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.

One of the, JOHN FEENEY, said he was buried in the 5:30 p.m. collapse and could hear cries of help from colleagues below him.

The collapse came as firemen thought they had brought the fire under control.

It was "absolutely unexpected," said Capt. JOHN COLLINS a fire department spokesman. "They thought the fire was out except for the sweeping up."



Vendome Memorial

After year of work by Deputy Fire Chief Paul Christian and District Fire Chief Gerald Molito, the city agreed to install a monument dedicated to the Vendome firefighters on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, within sight of the rebuilt hotel, which is now a condominium complex. The Vendome Memorial was dedicated on June 17, 1997, twenty-five years to the day after the fire, in a ceremony attended by thousands of firefighters and their families... [The Monument] features a bronze cast of a firefighter helmet and a turnout coat draped over a granite arc decorated with quotes and statements that refer to the fire. Unfortunately, Chief Molito died before the monument was finished.

From Boston's Fire Trail by the Boston Fire Historical Society, Boston Fire Historical Society. Read it online at Google Books