Friday, December 19, 2008

The Death Of John Shockey, Part Two

The Veto Company, No. 8, were first upon the scene (of the Scholz fire) and first to get a stream into action. Nos. 19 and 20 arrived immediately after and soon got to work. The Vetoes at first attacked the fire from the front and had checked the flames in that direction.

From a one-story gravel roof addition to the main building the 19s were playing their stream upon the fire, which was rapidly gaining headway in the rear and blazing from the ground up to the roof. On the east side of the burning house there was a vacant lot of about twenty feet wide, and in order to gain the rear of the fire it was necessary to pass over this open space close under the treacherous wall. Making up his mind to take the risk, Mr. Shockey said to the Veto company, "Pick up your line, and we will go through with a rush."

William Greenwood, of No. 8, and Edward Lyons, of No. 2 truck, had hold of the nozzle. Then followed Howard, of No. 2 truck, Assistant Fire Chief John Shockey, John Fisher, residing at 3908 Broadway; William Shepard, William Kemper, of No. 8, and lastly John Harkins, foreman in Knapp, Stout, & Co.'s saw mill. All these parties had hold of the Veto's line of hose and were making the run of the dangerous gantlet when Harkins stumbled. In his fall he threw several of his companions off their feet and they rolled down into a sink-hole with the nozzle.

"Come up, come up, come up out of that," shouted Mr. Shockey. At that instant there was a crash from the opposite side of the building. Several shouts went up: "Look out! Look out!" And the poor fellows did look out and up also to see the wall toppling over upon them in the narrow chute. All of them dropped the hose and made a break for their lives. Some tried to escape through the opening to the north, and others attempted to clear themselves from the mass of falling brick and mortar by running out of the south entrance. It was a perilous moment, and the hundreds who had gathered about the scene held their breath in horror until after the debris had settled and the dirt and smoke began to clear above the sufferers who were caught in the trap.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 26, 1881

The image above, and the rest of the images in this series of posts, comes from Fire History, a fantastic website that chronicles the history of North American fire departments. None of the images are of the StLFD or St. Louis firemen but they were all taken around the time of the Scholz fire.

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