Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire
The Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire began on December 3, 1999, in Worcester, Massachusetts. It started when two homeless and mentally disabled people, Thomas Levesque and Julie Ann Barnes, who were living inside the warehouse, knocked over a candle after an argument earlier in the afternoon. Both fled without reporting the fire to emergency services. The structure was located five blocks east of the Worcester central business district, near Union Station and adjacent to Interstate 290. The fire would eventually grow to five-alarm status and rage for six days before being brought under control. Firefighting companies from the city and from neighboring towns were called to respond. Six Worcester firefighters died in the fire.
Reports that homeless people were possibly inside the engulfed warehouse caused fire-rescue personnel to search the six-story building. The searchers' task was made extremely difficult by the large size of the building's interior, the layout, which was a maze of corridors and meat lockers, many with identical flush-handle doors, and the highly flammable composition of its insulation. Nearly a century old, the interior walls had been progressively covered with various forms of insulating materials, including cork impregnated with tar, polystyrene foam, and polyurethane foam, to a thickness of 18 inches. Once ignited, the large amount of fuel, fed initially by the large volume of air in the building, became virtually inextinguishable.
The six-story building's exterior walls were constructed of approximately 18 inches of brick and mortar, with no windows above the second floor. The lack of available windows prevented firefighting personnel from making an accurate initial assessment of the fire. Initial breaching of lower-floor doors, combined with venting the building by smashing an elevator-shaft roof skylight, effectively turned the building into a huge chimney. With the fire rapidly accelerating out of control, rescue teams facing near-zero visibility became lost with available breathing air depleted. Despite repeated radio calls for help, along with activation of audible location alarms, six firefighters, who have since become known as the Worcester 6, perished in the blaze. It took eight days to find and recover the remains of the six men.
Services for the firefighters were held in the DCU Center (then called Worcester's Centrum Centre). The funeral procession was broadcast on several national news networks and was attended by President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator John Kerry (who flew non-stop from Burma, where he had been attending a diplomatic function). Also in the procession were firefighters from around the United States, Canada, and from Dublin, Ireland.
City leaders plan to erect a memorial to the Six in Institute Park, adjacent to the Worcester Fire Headquarters station on Grove Street. The Franklin Street Fire Station, officially opened November 19, 2008, now sits on the land formerly occupied by the cold storage facility, which was demolished immediately after the fire investigation. A memorial to the fallen firefighters, created by artist Brian P. Hanlon, is also located at this site. Also, a banner hangs from the rafters in the DCU Center to commemorate the Worcester 6; it was raised by the Worcester Sharks AHL team on December 3, 2009.
Manslaughter charges against Levesque and Barnes were initially dismissed, but were reinstated on appeal. They received probation. Julie Ann Barnes was adopted by a family in Maine, the Kings, who had adopted Julie's sister.
The building's owners were not charged.
Denis Leary's first cousin, Jerry Lucey, and his childhood friend and high school classmate, Lt. Tommy Spencer, were both victims of the fire. Denis established The Leary Firefighters Foundation in the spring of 2000.
|6:13PM||The first alarm was dispatched.|
|6:14PM||Engine 1 arrived on location reporting they had heavy smoke showing.|
|6:17PM||Car 3 requests the 2nd alarm be struck.|
|6:20PM||Ladder 1 reported fire on the second floor, and had multiple 2-1/2" lines being put in service for the suppression efforts.|
|6:24PM||Fire alarm tells command that they have a report that a citizen told a police officer that "may be two people that live in that building."|
|6:32PM||Car 3 asks Rescue 1 if they've checked on the rumor of the two homeless people. Rescue 1 reports they have made a preliminary search, and haven't found anyone.|
|6:40PM||Car 2 requests the 3rd alarm be struck.|
|6:46PM||Rescue 1 reports to command that they are lost on the fourth floor and they are running out of air.|
|6:47PM||Rescue 1 calls Fire Alarm asking them to clear the air, and they have an emergency.|
|6:47PM||The Fire Alarm dispatcher sounds the alert tones.|
|6:52PM||Car 2 requests the 4th alarm be struck and Chief Budd be notified.|
|6:53PM||Car 3 directs Rescue 1 to activate the PASS devices to aid the other companies in locating them.|
|6:55PM||"They are activated," referring to the PASS devices. This is the last audible transmission from Rescue 1.|
|7:04PM||Ladder 2/Portable 2 asks Portable 1 his location. Portable 1 replies "Good question." They are now lost with Engine 3 on the fifth floor.|
|7:08PM||Ladder 2 requests for the Chief to send a crew to the stairwell and yell, so they can find it. They also report they are running low on air.|
|7:15PM||"Ladder 2 to command we're done..." This is the last transmission of the four man search team from Ladder 2/Engine 3.|
|7:26PM||Car 1 requests the 5th alarm be struck.|
|The Millbury Fire Department came on mutual aid to the scene. They brought a Thermal imaging camera with them. This was to be used in assisting the firefighters locate the missing firefighters.|
|7:53PM||Car 4 reports the thermal imager has stopped working.|
|7:58PM||Car 3 signals for all companies to evacuate the building.|
The Worcester 6
|Firefighter||Paul Brotherton||41||Auburn, MA||Rescue 1|
|Firefighter||Jeremiah Lucey||38||Leicester, MA||Rescue 1|
|Lieutenant||Thomas Spencer||42||Worcester, MA||Ladder 2|
|Firefighter||Timothy Jackson||51||Hopedale, MA||Ladder 2|
|Firefighter||James Lyons||34||Worcester, MA||Engine 3|
|Firefighter||Joseph McGuirk||38||Worcester, MA||Engine 3|
- List of the deadliest firefighter disasters in the United States
- Leary Firefighters Foundation
- Charleston Sofa Super Store fire
- Sean Flynn (July 1, 2000). "The Perfect Fire". Esquire. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
- "Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial Park: The Memorial". The Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial Committee. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
- "Fireman's Memorial - City of Worcester, MA". City of Worcester. Retrieved July 3, 2012.
- Worcester Sharks Website 
- Fallen Heroes
- Flynn, Sean, "The Perfect Fire," Esquire magazine, July 2001
- Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation Report
- Worcester Fire Fighters Memorial Park