Fire Department Journal

Fenway Park Fire

By William Noonan
Fire Fighter

 

Everyone knows that the Red Sox play baseball at Fenway Park, but did you know about the huge fire there in 1934?

The weather was cold with some snow falling on Friday, January 5, 1934. Fenway Park was undergoing a major rebuilding that would cost over $250,000, a substantial amount back then.

Fenway_Fire1sThere were over 150 workers on the job site when a salamander that was being used to dry the fresh cement overturned. The canvas covering being used caught fire and the fire spread was rapid. The workers tried to fight the fire in its incipiency but movement was too fast. The fire quickly extended to the new left field bleachers in the area known as "Duffy's Cliff".

The Boston Fire Department was notified of the fire by the pulling of the street Box 2344 at 1:04 PM. Several telephone calls were received soon thereafter. The first fire companies to arrive found heavy fire in the area of the new bleachers. A second alarm was ordered at 1: 14 PM, followed by a third at 1: 18 PM, a fourth at 1:23 PM and a fifth alarm, ordered by Chief of Department Henry A. Fox, at 1:24 PM.

Companies had to run lines through the Park from Ipswich Street and attempt to Fenway_Fire2sstop the rapid spread of fire. It quickly jumped Landsdowne Street and took full possession of several buildings, including the Seibering Rubber Co., the old Cotton Club, and the Oldsmobile & Pontiac Motor Works located at 42 Landsdowne Street. Companies immediately went into deck guns as they advanced up Landsdowne Street. In 1934 every engine company in Boston had both a hose wagon and a pump.

Eddie Collins, General Manager of the Red Sox, was having his lunch when he was notified of the fire and he responded fight away. Tom Yawkey, owner of the Red Sox, was on vacation in North Carolina when notified and he headed for Boston immediately. When he arrived in Boston he announced, "Opening Day will not be delayed."

Fenway_Fire3sFire Commissioner McLaughlin, who, had been re-appointed to that position on the previous day, was attending a "welcome back lunch" and responded to the fire right away. The fire was brought under control after a long and hard battle. The damage exceeded. $220,000, an astronomical loss in 1934. Two firefighters received minor injuries battling the inferno.

If this fire occurred today, the following companies which responded in 1934 would not be available as they have been disbanded: Engines 13, 15, 19, 23, 26, 34, and 43; also Ladder Companies 12 and 13.

Repairs to the stadium were completed on time, and as Tom Yawkey promised, Opening Day was not delayed!