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Strand Theatre

 

 


68th Strand Theatre Fire Memorial Remebrance
Mar 12, 2009

Click Here for News Story and Photos

 


Strand Theatre Memorial Dedication
May 01, 2008

 

STRAND THEATRE

MEMORIAL DEDICATION

 

Brockton Firefighters Local 144 would like to thank all those that contributed to the completion of the Strand Theatre Fire Memorial.  It is with your help that the May 10th dedication was  such a huge success. We thank all of you for helping in creating this permanent memorial to our 13 Brothers who were lost on that cold March night.

 

 March 12th outside Strand.jpg

 

 

 

Click Here for Dedication Articles and Video 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


67th Strand Theatre Tragedy Remembrance
Mar 11, 2008

CLICK HERE FOR... WBZ Radio Carl Stevens Journal  

Remembering 13 Brockton firefighters killed in 1941

 

 YouTube Video

The Enterprise

Posted Mar 11, 2008 @ 08:44 AM
Last update Mar 11, 2008 @ 10:49 AM

BROCKTON —

Family members and fire officials gathered at Brockton City Hall on Monday morning to remember the 13 firefighters who lost their lives 67 years ago in the Strand Theatre. For the past several years, members of the Brockton Fire Department and Local 144 have been working to build a permanent memorial. The Strand Theatre Firefighters Memorial Monument will be unveiled  May 10 at 11:00 a.m. The memorial committee has been trying to locate descendants of the fallen firefighters. The public is asked to forward contact information about family members to StrandMemorial@aol.com.

 

 

BRCK_STRANDMEMORIAL08_TMC06.jpg
TIM CORREIRA
Members of the Brockton Pipes & Drum Corps march to the front door of City Hall on Monday after performing during the memorial ceremony to remember the fallen firefighters who died in the Strand Theatre fire 67

 

  

BRCK_STRANDMEMORIAL08_TMC05.jpg
TIM CORREIRA
Ernest Howland shows his 3-year-old son, Jacob, newspaper clippings from the days after the fire in 1941.
BRCK_STRANDMEMORIAL08_TMC04.jpg
TIM CORREIRA
Spectators watch from the second floor of City Hallas the Brockton Pipe & Drum Corps perform during a memorial ceremony for the Strand Theatre fire victims held Monday morning.

 


Strand Theater Remembered
Mar 09, 2007

‘I knew them all’: Survivor of ’41 inferno looks to honor comrades
By Dave Wedge
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter

 

Friday, March 9, 2007 - Updated: 01:29 AM EST

Sixty-six years ago, Edward “Sonny” Burrell was a gung-ho 26-year-old who cheated death in a Brockton theater blaze that ranks second only to the Sept. 11 attacks as the single deadliest day for firefighters in American history.

 

     The 92-year-old retired Brockton fire chief is the last surviving member of the department that battled the March 10, 1941, Strand Theater inferno that killed 13 firefighters. He’s now hoping he’ll live to see a long-overdue memorial.

 

    “I’d like to see the memorial before I die,” Burrell said. “It was a pretty tragic event for all of us at the time. Thirteen of them gone and there were several of them injured. I knew them all.”

 

 

    Tomorrow marks the 66th anniversary of the deadly fire, and the city is continuing a push to raise enough money for a memorial on City Hall plaza.

 

    Led by Lt. Richard Baker of the Brockton firefighters union, the department is nearing its $150,000 fund-raising goal for a bronze statue of a firefighter and a granite memorial just feet from the site of the deadly fire.

 



Former Brockton fire Chief Edward Burrell, at his Brockton home, is the only surviving firefighter who fought the blaze at the Strand Theater that killed 13 firefighters. (Staff photo by David Goldman)

    Brockton fire Chief Kenneth Galligan said Burrell’s advancing age has become a driving force to complete the project.

 

    “We would like to get this memorial done in honor of him while he is still with us,” the chief said. “He’s not getting any younger. We would love to have him there when that memorial is dedicated.”

 

    The city has approved the project and a Northampton artist has been selected to design the memorial. “It’s . . . long overdue,” Mayor James Harrington said.

 

    For Burrell, the tragedy is a distant memory, but one which he feels younger generations should never forget. He recalled the toll the tragedy took on the then-bustling Shoe City as surviving firefighters took up collections to help care for the many widows and fatherless children left behind.

 

    He also recalls how he almost lost his life that day. He was part of a company that was extending a ladder onto the Strand’s roof when the structure collapsed.

 

    “Just as we were putting the ladder down onto the roof so we could get down on it, the roof caved in,” he recalled. “If it had been five minutes more, there would have been five more of us in there.”

 

    The push for the Brockton memorial is just the latest struggle to honor fallen Bay State firefighters.

 

    It took years to build a memorial to the nine Boston firefighters killed in the 1972 Hotel Vendome fire, and efforts still are under way to build a memorial to six Worcester firefighters killed in 1999.

 

    A $1 million State House memorial to fallen firefighters partially funded by a $250,000 state grant is slated to be dedicated in the fall.

 

    “All of these are very important to memorialize the public safety workers who died very courageously in the line of duty,” said state Fire Marshall Stephen Coan.

 

 


History
Feb 24, 2006
 

Remembering the Strand Theatre

 

Written by Capt. Mark Picher BFD

 

    Throughout the United States, many firefighters have been killed by the unexpected collapse of burning buildings. Unfortunately, when a building collapses during a fire, it can be sudden and cause large numbers of firefighter deaths and injuries. Over the years, we have seen, heard and read about these collapses, and sometimes they can even occur in our own community.

     Many of these tragic events are etched in our minds forever. Some of the most notable building collapses which have caused firefighter deaths since the turn of the century include: Chicago, Illinois stockyard building collapse, 1910, 21 firefighters killed; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, leather factory fire, 1910, 13 firefighters killed; New York City drug store floor collapse, 1966, 12 firefighters killed; and the Boston, Massachusetts Hotel Vendome collapse, 1972, 9 firefighters killed. With out question, the most tragic collapse event in firefighting history is the recent collapse of the World Trade Centers in New York City where 343 firefighters lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

    Although some of these events became well known parts of our history, others did not. Very few people are aware of one of the most disastrous burning building collapses in our nation’s history – The Strand Theatre Fire. The fire took place in Brockton, Massachusetts on March 10, 1941. Thirteen firefighters were killed when a roof collapsed while the men were operating on a balcony. To date, this is the third largest loss of life to firefighters from a burning building collapse along with Philadelphia’s leather factory fire in 1910.

 

 

 

The City of Brockton

 

    In 1941, the City of Brockton was ranked thirteenth in size among Massachusetts cities. Well-known for its thriving shoe industry, this working class manufacturing city was known as the hub of southeastern Massachusetts. Located 20 miles south of Boston, with a population of 60,000 and an area of 21.5 square miles, Brockton was said to be among the most active and prosperous communities in the commonwealth.

     The City of Brockton Fire Department was highly dedicated and professional in 1941, with 123 paid firefighters operating five engine/hose wagon companies, three ladder companies, and a specialized squad company from six fire stations. Brockton firefighters at the time received $35.40 for an 84-hour work week after having received a pay cut seven years prior.

 

 

History of the Strand Theatre

 

    The Strand Theatre was first erected in 1915 on the site of a previous theatre which was destroyed by fire on April 7, 1915. The newly-constructed Strand was formally opened in March, 1916, touting its modern fire safety features. The theatre, which was located on an irregular-shaped lot, measured 74 feet of frontage, 32 feet in the rear and 139 feet deep with a height of 60 feet. A seating capacity of 1,685 was allowed making the Strand the largest playhouse in the city.

     Walls were of brick and the roof was made up of wood boards on joists supported by unprotected steel trusses. The interior walls were metal lath and plaster as was the ceiling, which was suspended from the wood trusses.

     The balcony covered a large area above the auditorium and housed a manager’s office, usher’s room and rest rooms. The area under the auditorium was dead space with the exception of the west end of the basement were finished rooms contained the furnace, ventilation equipment and a janitor’s room. The lobby was an open area with two open stairwells on each end providing access to the balcony. A long corridor connected the lobby to the School Street side.

     Fire Protection features included a dry pipe sprinkler system in the stage area which was termed "fireproof". Surface exits provided were reported to be 20% above those required by state law.

     In August, 1937, the Strand Theatre underwent extensive remodeling and improvements under new management. The building remained intact under the new management until the fire occurred.

 

 Strand Theater  (outside).jpg

 

The Fire

 

    In the heart of Brockton’s business district, people usually flocked to the downtown area to shop or take in a show in what was a busy part of the city. Sunday, March 9, 1941, like all other Sundays, drew large crowds looking for the entertainment of a movie or vaudeville show.

     The Strand Theatre, located on a large block at the corner of Main and School Streets, was showing the film "Hoosier School Boy" starring Mickey Rooney. "Secret Evidence" filled out the double bill.

     Long after the last show, the night custodian discovered a fire in the basement and instructed his helper to activate the fire alarm box located at Main and High Street. At 12:38 a.m., the fire department received box 1311 and sent the first alarm apparatus to the scene. A second alarm followed shortly after the first, and finally a general alarm was sounded bringing all of Brockton’s apparatus to the Strand.

     When firefighters first arrived, all indications were that they were not dealing with a very serious fire. However, as time progressed, the fire gained headway. This became more apparent to those on the outside of the theatre than crews working inside.

     The fire started in the basement and was knocked down by crews with cellar pipes while flames raced through the vertical voids in the walls and ventilation ducts. Firefighters worked feverishly to extinguish hidden fire while crews opened walls and ceilings in the lobby and under the balcony. A number of men moved up to the balcony to attack the fire which had made its way to the auditorium ceiling just below the roof.

     The first signs of visible outside fire erupted from the southwest corner of the building as outside crews played a large hose-line on the exposed flames. Firefighters on the balcony continued their efforts to expose the fire within the ceiling as hose streams were directed overhead from the auditorium floor.

     Less than one hour after the initial alarm, the Strand Theatre fire changed the course of history for the City of Brockton and its fire department, particularly for those men working on the balcony. Suddenly, without warning, the west section of the roof came down in a crash that rested its weight on top of many unsuspecting firefighters and knocked several from the balcony and roof to the auditorium below.

     Remaining, uninjured firefighters worked diligently in the chaos and rubble to free their comrades despite the danger and fear of further collapse. Eventually, fire departments from surrounding towns relieved crews from Brockton. Later that morning, the dead and injured firefighters were removed from the scene as the department and outside agencies faced the difficult task of determining the cause of the fire and the subsequent collapse.

     In all, 13 Firefighters were killed, and more than 20 injured when what was termed a routine fire, turned into disaster. Since then, each year on March 10th a commemorative service is held at Brockton City Hall where a monument rests in honor of the men who died.

 

 

  

Conclusion

 

    No definite cause for the fire was ever discovered. Initial reports that the fire was arson proved to be inconclusive. Further investigation revealed that the unprotected steel roof trusses played a major role in the collapse. The heat of the fire within the concealed space between the roof and the auditorium ceiling was believed to have distorted the steel trusses, causing them to buckle and separate with ease. Experts questioned the effectiveness of the construction and design used in the roof assembly.

     Some reports state that the weight of a previous snowfall may have added to the collapse. However, witness accounts and photographs indicate a minimal amount of snow.

     It is important to note that many older structures of similar design and construction to the Strand Theatre still exist in the country today (particular in older cities). Attention should be brought to the potential collapse danger of these unprotected steel truss roofs in an effort to prevent similar tragedies.

 

                                     

This article is dedicated to the memory of those

firefighters who gave their lives at the

 Strand Theater on March 10, 1941 in the performance of their duty.


Captain John F. Carroll--Ladder Company 3

Lieutenant Raymond A. Mitchell--Engine Company 4

   Firefighter Roy A. McKeraghan--Squad A

Firefighter Denis P. Murphy--Squad A

Firefighter William J. Murphy--Squad A

Firefighter Daniel C. O'Brien--Squad A

Firefighter George A. Collins--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Frederick F. Kelley--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Martin Lipper--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Henry E. Sullivan--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Bartholomew Herlihy--Ladder Company 1

Firefighter John M. McNeill--Ladder Company 1

 Firefighter Matthew E. McGeary--Ladder Company 3

 

 



May 10th Dedication
May 11, 2008
ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER
Posted May 11, 2008 @ 06:00 AM
Last update May 11, 2008 @ 07:28 AM

BROCKTON —

After more than 67 years, the deadliest fire in the city’s history finally has a fitting memorial.

Many hundreds crowded into City Hall Plaza Saturday morning to see the dedication of the Strand Theatre Firefighters Memorial statue, a bronze-and-granite tribute to the 13 firefighters who lost their lives as a result of the theater blaze on March 10, 1941.

The memorial, which stands more than 10 feet tall and shows a firefighter kneeling with his head down, sits in the plaza about 100 feet from where the Strand Theatre once stood.

It was announced during Saturday’s event that the statue depicts Edward Burrell, a retired Brockton fire chief and the only living member of the force that responded to the fire.

“It’s a great monument for those 13 firefighters. It was a long time coming,” said Burrell, 93, after the dedication. “I never thought I’d be here to see it.”

The crowd endured chill winds throughout the nearly two-hour event, and broke into cheering as the statue was unveiled.

Twelve firefighters were killed when the theater’s ceiling collapsed suddenly, and a 13th later died from his injuries.

It remains one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history.

“This tragedy forever defined the history of the Brockton fire department,” Brockton Fire Chief Kenneth Galligan said in remarks during the event.

The new memorial, he said, “will forever remind all of those who visit this memorial site of the dedication, sacrifice and commitment of all firefighters.”

Mayor James Harrington described the fallen firefighters as “brave heroes” who will never be forgotten. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray called the ceremony a bittersweet moment.

“Even the stretch of 67 years can’t fully erase the pain Brockton felt on the morning of March 10, 1941,” Murray said.

Officials said they believe the timing of the fire — just a few months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the start of U.S. involvement in World War II — may have been one of the reasons a memorial was not erected sooner.

In August 1941, a memorial with the names of the deceased engraved in coal was given to the city by the Fire Department of Scranton, Pa., and for decades it had been the only memorial the city had to the fire victims. It is located inside City Hall.

Brockton Fire Lt. Richard Baker, who helped spearhead the effort to build the new memorial, said it took seven years of fundraising and planning.

“I can finally, finally, finally say that we did it,” Baker said, to cheers from the crowd.

Kyle Alspach can be reached at kalspach@enterprisenews.com.

MRV_BRCK_347126_STRAND THEATRE.jpg
MARC VASCONCELLOS/ THE ENTERPRISE
Retired Brockton Fire Chief Edward Burrell, 93, Brockton, is reflected into the Strand Theatre monument after it was unveilled at City Hall Plaza. Thirteen Brockton Firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty on March 10, 1941. Burrell was a firefighter the day of the Strand Theatre fire, and the monument was designed to look like him when he was a young firefighter.

 

Click Here For Dedication Video Clip


Strand Theatre Memorial Video
May 11, 2008

This video gives a brief description of the Strand Theatre Fire and the efforts toward the successful completion of a permanent memorial.  A memorial for our 13 Brothers who were lost that cold day in March 1941.

 

Video....Strand Theatre Fire Memorial


Boston Globe Article.. Strand Theatre Tragedy
May 04, 2008

 

A memory painful and indelible

Ed Burrell, the only remaining survivor of those who fought the 1941 blaze in Brockton's Strand Theatre, will be on hand Saturday as a sculpture honoring his fallen comrades is dedicated

 By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / May 4, 2008

Each anniversary - and there have been 66 of them - rekindles painful memories, and nightmares. Ed Burrell is 93 years old, and long ago retired from his firefighting duties, but each year he stands at a memorial ceremony, paying sad tribute to the comrades who died on one of Brockton's most horrible nights.

more stories like this

Burrell is the last living survivor of those who fought the Strand Theatre blaze that, with one roar, became one of the deadliest of its time, claiming the lives of 13 firefighters. And this Saturday, he'll bear witness for them as a monument is dedicated in their memory.

It was March 10, 1941, and Burrell was a newlywed, on the squad for just two years. He was only a few feet away from the theater's roof when it collapsed, trapping firefighters inside. Burrell can still remember the thrashing sounds of metal and timber falling, of yells and screeches. And the silence.

"I went blank, really," said Burrell. "I just couldn't imagine."

Burrell doesn't mind talking about the fire, because he's the only one who can.

The monument has been seven years in the making. Its $150,000 cost was paid with the proceeds of raffles and potluck dinners. It's a bronze statue of a firefighter kneeling in grief, the names of the 13 firefighters engraved on a base. It stands just over 10 feet tall.

"It's long overdue," said Burrell. "It was heartbreaking for all of us."

He remembers clearly what happened that night 67 years ago. He had been assigned to Ladder No. 2. when the fire began, a bit past midnight. At first, the blaze seemed to be routine, nothing like the shoe factory fires they faced.

Firefighters - who, in that day, had no face masks or radios - attacked the inner walls of the 1,685-seat theater, empty by that time, while others worked to vent the roof. Burrell's crew was directed to the roof of the adjacent Kennedy building, to run a hose down into the flames. At one point, he was told to leverage a ladder down to the roof of the theater, to get closer. Then the roof collapsed.

All he could see was crumbling of metal and timber, and smoke. He remembers it was cold out. But still he sprayed water because every time he stopped he could hear screams. He couldn't make out the words, but maybe the injured couldn't stand the heat from the rubble, so he sprayed to cool them down. He did so for hours, until another crew arrived.

"I remember calling my wife, and telling her I was all right," he said. Before his call, she did not know firefighters had died.

The 13 firefighters were wedged between seats on the balcony, which also collapsed, injuring 20 other firefighters below. Twelve of the firefighters died immediately, and one succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

The firefighters trapped inside had no idea of the fire's extent until it was too late. Outside, the flames roaring through the walls and ceiling were clearly visible. But to the firefighters inside, on the balcony, the flames were hidden. It later became clear that the flames were contained in a closed, 10-foot space between the ceiling and the roof. As they grew, the heat caused metal trusses to buckle, pushing out the brick wall and causing the roof to collapse.

The recovery of the victims was wrenching. Numbers on boots were one of the few ways to identify the dead. One man was identified by a watch he kept in his pocket. Crews from surrounding communities came to help. A priest was honored for his walk through the rubble to bless the injured in the twilight of the fire.

"It was a disaster for everyone," Burrell said.

A cause of the blaze was never determined. All that was known was that, earlier in the evening, patrons who had watched the last show, "Secret Evidence," a crime drama, had reported smelling smoke. Later, two custodians saw fire in the basement and pulled the box alarm, 1311, a block away on Main Street.

Today, the pattern of the fire serves as a lesson for fire attack plans. Modern technology allows firefighters to communicate, and use heat sensing devices to follow the fire's force. But back then, said Burrell, none of that existed.

"All they gave us was a helmet," said Burrell.

Despite the health problems that come with his age, and perhaps his profession, Burrell still attends Fire Chiefs' Association of Massachusetts meetings. And on Wednesday evenings he goes to the Brockton Fire Museum with friends to look at old pictures, and tell old stories to a new generation of firefighters.

And when talk turns to the tragedy of 1941, Burrell is the last one who can say, "I was there."

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at valencia@globe.com.


Background
Jan 15, 2008

Strand Theatre Background

The Strand Theatre opened in March, 1916 on School Street between Main Street and City Hall in Brockton. It replaced another theatre that was destroyed by fire April 7, 1915. With a seating capacity of 1,685, it was the largest playhouse in the City.

When opened, the Strand Theatre was considered a leader in modern fire safety. The stage area included a dry pipe sprinkler system termed “fireproof” and the surface exits were 20% more than state law requirements.

Located on an irregular lot, the Theatre measured 139 feet deep and 60 feet tall. The walls were made of brick and the roof was made up of wood boards on joists supported by unprotected steel trusses. The interior walls were metal lath and plaster as was the ceiling, which was suspended from the trusses. The balcony covered a large area above the auditorium and housed a manager’s office, usher’s room and rest rooms. The area under the auditorium was dead space with the exception of the west end of the basement where finished rooms contained the furnace, ventilation equipment and a janitor’s room. The lobby was an open area with two open stairwells on each end providing access to the balcony. A long corridor connected the Theatre lobby to School Street.

In August, 1937, the Strand Theatre underwent extensive remodeling and improvements under new management. The building remained intact under the new management until the fire occurred in 1941.

March 10, 1941: The Stand Theatre Fire

In the heart of Brockton’s business district, people usually flocked to the downtown area to shop or take in a show in what was a busy part of the city. Sunday, March 9, 1941, like all other Sundays, drew large crowds looking for the entertainment of a movie or vaudeville show. That evening the Strand showed the double feature, "Hoosier School Boy" starring Mickey Rooney, followed by "Secret Evidence," a crime drama.

Long after the curtain had closed and the crowds had filtered out, a custodian discovered a fire burning in the Theatre basement and instructed his helper to activate the fire alarm box located at Main and High Street. At 12:38 a.m., the fire department received Box 1311 and sent the first alarm apparatus to the scene. A second alarm followed shortly after the first, and finally a general alarm was sounded bringing all of Brockton’s apparatus to the Strand Theatre.

When firefighters first arrived on the scene, the fire did not seem very serious. However, as time progressed, the fire gained headway. This became more apparent to those on the outside of the theatre than crews working inside.

 

 

Crews knocked down the fire in the basement with cellar pipes while flames raced through the vertical voids in the walls and ventilation ducts. Firefighters worked feverishly to extinguish hidden fire while crews opened walls and ceilings in the lobby and under the balcony. A number of men moved up to the balcony to attack the fire which had made its way to the auditorium ceiling just below the roof.

The first signs of visible outside fire erupted from the southwest corner of the building as outside crews played a large hose-line on the exposed flames. Firefighters on the balcony continued their efforts to expose the fire within the ceiling as hose streams were directed overhead from the auditorium floor.

Less than one hour later, the Strand Theatre Fire turned from a routine fire into one of the worst tragedies in Brockton and Massachusetts history when the west section of the roof collapsed, killing 13 firefighters and injuring 20 firefighters.

Uninjured firefighters worked tirelessly to save their fellow brothers despite the danger and fear of another collapse. Eventually, fire departments from neighboring towns relieved Brockton firefighters.

No definite cause for the fire was ever discovered. Initial reports of arson proved to be inconclusive. Further investigation revealed that the unprotected steel roof trusses played a major role in the collapse. The heat of the fire within the concealed space between the roof and the auditorium ceiling was believed to have distorted the steel trusses, causing them to buckle and separate with ease. Experts questioned the effectiveness of the construction and design used in the roof assembly. Some reports state that the weight of a previous snowfall may have added to the collapse. However, witness accounts and photographs indicate a minimal amount of snow.

 

Every year on March 10th a commemorative service is held at Brockton City Hall to honor the 13 Brockton firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice that winter night:

                                     Captain John F. Carroll --Ladder Company 3

Lieutenant Raymond A. Mitchell--Engine Company 4

Firefighter Roy A. McKeraghan--Squad A

Firefighter Denis P. Murphy--Squad A

Firefighter William J. Murphy--Squad A

Firefighter Daniel C. O'Brien--Squad A

Firefighter George A. Collins--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Frederick F. Kelley--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Martin E. Lipper--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Henry E. Sullivan--Engine Company 1

Firefighter Bartholomew Herlihy--Ladder Company 1

Firefighter Matthew E. McGeary--Ladder Company 3

Firefighter John M. McNeill--Ladder Company 1


Scranton PA Local 60 Memorial Gift
Jan 06, 2008

This carving has been used at the center of the Annual Strand Theatre Rememberances for the past 6 decades.

Scranton Coal for website.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This engraved anthracite was given by the Scranton PA local in memory of the 13 Firefighters Killed at the Strand Theatre Fire.

It was carved in August of 1941.  Only a few months after the tradgedy.

 

 

 

Coal at city hall.JPG




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