Brockton, MA Fire At Strand Theater Traps Firemen, Mar 1941

Site Of Fire Disaster Strand Theater Memorial




Brockton, March 10 (AP) -- Twelve firemen were killed and 16 injured early today when the snow-laden roof of the 30-year-old Strand theater collapsed during a fire which destroyed the building.
Firemen and police, poking through the smouldering mass of metal, wood and plaster uncovered 11 bodies by 9 a. m. and continued searching.
The known dead were:
Captain JOHN F. CARROLL, 52, Ladder Company 3.
Firefighter WILLIAM J. MURPHY, 25, Squad A.
Firefighter DANIEL C. O'BRIEN, 45, Squad A.
Firefighter HENRY E. SULLIVAN, 45, Engine Company 1.
Firefighter JOHN MALCOLM McNEIL, 40, Ladder Company 1.
Firefighter MATTHEW E. McGEARY, 48, Ladder Company 3.
Lieutenant RAYMOND A. MITCHELL, Engine Company 4.
Firefighter DENIS P. MURPHY, Squad A.
Firefighter ROY A. McKERAGHAN, Squad A.
Firefighter GEORGE A. COLLINS, Engine Company 1.
Firefighter FREDERICK F. KELLEY, Engine Company 1.
Firefighter MARTIN LIPPER, Engine Company 1.
Firefighter BARTHOLOMEW HERLIHY, Ladder Company 1.
Approximately 25 men were trapped when the roof over the theater balcony caved in with a terrific roar. Most where released quickly and given emergency hospital treatment, but two bodies were carried out along with the living.
Six others were missing, and the bodies of four of them were not freed from the debris until daybreak, five hours after the fire was discovered. Hundreds of Sunday night movie goers had left the theater less than two hours before the fire took hold.
Trapped firemen screamed as flames licked at their hands and faces while they were caught in the debris.
A Catholic priest, the REV. LAWRENCE MORRISROE of St. Patrick's church, borrowed a fireman's helmet and rubber coat and went into the burning building to administer last rites to the dying and most seriously injured.
Most of those trapped were in the theater balcony, part of which collapsed under the weight of the snow-laden roof. Several were carried through the balcony floor, where rescuers hurriedly pulled away theater seats, ceiling plaster and roof timbers to free them.
An eye-witness, CORNELIUS T. LYONS, a Brockton Enterprise reporter who was standing on the stage of the burning theater when the roof collapsed, said that two of the dead men, Fire Lieutenant JOHN F. CARROLL, 52, and Fireman WILLIAM MURPHY, 25, were among those he saw come through the balcony floor.
Fire Lieutenant JOHN BUCKLEY came tumbling through after them, but he remained conscious and talked to rescuers as they pulled him from the debris and rushed him to the hospital.
Hours later the bodies of DANIEL O'BRIEN, 45, HENRY SULLIVAN, 45, MALCOLM McNEIL, 40 and MATHEW McGEARY, 48, were taken from the building.
Around 7 a.m. a seventh body was recovered and was identified as that of Lieut. RAYMOND A. MITCHELL.
The injured under treatment at Brockton hospital included, BARTHOLOMEW HERLIHY, who was reported "very low," Lieut. ERNEST McRAE, JOHN CASHMAN, ARTHUR HAMMORQUIST, WILLIAM E. KELLIHER, JEREMIAH SHEEHAN and Lieut. JOHN P. BUCKLEY.
Others treated and released from the hospital included Deputy Fire Chief JOHN MURPHY, Lieut. THOMAS BARRON, WILLIAM McGOWAN, MELVIN McREA, WILLIAM LANGLEY, CARL E. JOHNSON, GEORGE MALONEY, JOHN G. DOWD and WILLIAM BERRY.
State Fire Marshal STEPHEN C. GARRITY joined Fire Chief F. F. DICKINSON in an investigation of the cause of the blaze. Unofficial estimates placed the damage at $50,000.
While a fund was started almost immediately to aid the families of the victims, a community funeral for the 12 firefighters was being discussed.
The condition of STEPHEN HERLIHY, one of the 16 firemen requiring hospital treatment, was pronounced very grave this afternoon.

Brockton, March 10 (AP) -- The Rev. LAWRENCE P. MORRISROE, who borrowed a fireman's helmet and crawled into the smoldering debris at the Strand theater today to administer last rites to the injured and dying, performed a similar deed in Boston's Pickwick club disaster of 1925.
On the Fourth of July morning when the Pickwick club floor collapsed and killed 44 men and women, FR. MORRISROE, then a curate in St. James' church, Boston, crawled into the wreckage and ministered to the victims.

The Fitchburg Sentinel Massachusetts 1941-03-10