Illinois Fire Service Institute


Firefighter Record

Firefighter Details

Name Matthias Kettern
Agency Chicago Fire Department
Rank Truckman
Type of Firefighter Career
Age Range [Unknown]
Sex Male
Date of Birth 0/0/0
Date of Death 10/2/1888
Cause of Death Caught/Trapped
Nature of Death Asphyxiation
Attribute of Death Drowning
Type of Duty Firefighting operations , Ladder operations

Incident Details

Incident Name N/A
Incident City Chicago
Incident State IL
Incident Date 10/2/1888 22:30
Incident Location Water/Waterfront
Incident Attribute Fires

Incident Summary

On October 2, 1888, Chicago Fire Department Truckman Matthias Kettern of Truck 3 died in the line of duty while fighting a fire on the John Breedon tow barge. The boat’s coal elevator caught fire as it was unloading coal at the Chicago River docks on Erie Street, and Truck 3 was among the first fire companies to respond. Kettern placed a fire department ladder along the side of the barge, but the boat shifted while he was climbing the ladder and he fell into the river. Kettern surfaced twice to call for help, but his heavy coat and boots pulled him underwater. Firefighters dragged the river immediately, but were unable to rescue Kettern before he drowned.


“Fireman Kettern Loses His Life,” Chicago Daily Tribune, October 3, 1888.

Firefighter and Incident Images

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