|Agency||Chicago Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||41 to 45|
|Date of Birth||0/0/0|
|Date of Death||8/17/1940|
|Cause of Death||Contact/Exposure|
|Nature of Death||Burns|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations , Hazardous materials response , Hose operations|
On August 17, 1940, a fire erupted at the Van Schaack Brothers Chemical factory in Chicago. The fire started when a light bulb burst and ignited fumes from a manufacturing chemical named benzol, but the Chicago Fire Department responded and successfully extinguished the small blaze. Aware of the danger of additional chemical explosions, fire officers ordered firefighters out of the building, keeping two hose lines ready in case of any further explosions. Before all of the firefighters could be evacuated, however, a larger explosion rocked the factory.
Firefighters and officers from Engine 43, Engine 14, Engine 106, Engine 114, and Truck 13, were removing their equipment from a narrow hallway in the factory when the explosion sent flames bursting through the windows around them. Despite the potential for further explosions, Fire Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan led a team to rescue the victims. There were no more explosions, but four firefighters, Lieutenant William Schmidt (Engine 114), Lieutenant James Mulcahy (Engine 43), Firefighter Ray Carroll (Engine 43), and Firefighter Alfred Schilling (Truck 13), had been killed in the blast. Nine other firefighters, including two chiefs, were injured and Firefighter Charles Harrsch (Engine 43) died from his burns two days later. Damages to the factory were estimated to be $1,000.
“Four Firemen Die, 9 Hurt in Chemical Blast,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1940.
“Rites Are Arranged for a 4 Firemen Blast Victims; Inquest Set,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 19, 1940.
“Fireman Burned in Blast at Chemical Plant Dies,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 20, 1940.