|Agency||Chicago Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||36 to 40|
|Date of Birth||0/0/0|
|Date of Death||12/19/1905|
|Cause of Death||Struck by object|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations|
On December 19, 1905, Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant Harry Bassett of Engine 96 died while on duty with Engine 40. Bassett was crushed by a wall that collapsed during an industrial fire at a sign factory located at the intersection of North Wood and Division Streets.
The fire spread rapidly through the factory after a chemical barrel in the basement exploded and sent flames shooting up an elevator shaft to the sixth floor where an open oil barrel exploded. Thick black smoke from the two explosions poured from the elevator shaft into every floor of the building, and flames were breaking through the windows and the roof before the first fire companies arrived on scene.
Bassett was fighting the fire near an outside corner of the building when the floors started to collapse. The fire chief ordered the fire companies to back away from the building, but Bassett was nevertheless caught when the outer wall collapsed, and he was crushed under the falling bricks. He was unconscious when he was pulled from the debris, but died a few minutes later.
Bassett was a twelve year veteran of the department, and had previously served with Engine 1, Truck 3, and Engine 67. Within the department, Bassett originated the idea of a double-platoon system in which an engine company and a hook and ladder company were under a single command. His temporary assignment to Engine 40 was part of an experiment in which he commanded both Engine 40 and Hook and Ladder 6.
Funeral services for Bassett were held on December 21, and he was survived by his widow and five children. Fire Marshal Campion assigned a special detail of 75 firefighters, representing every company within the department, to attend the funeral and accompany the body to the cemetery.
“Platoon Backer Killed at Fire,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 20, 1905.
“Firemen Work at Fatal Factory Blaze; One of Them Is a Victim,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 20, 1905.
“Start Lieut. Bassett Fund; Friends Solicity Money for Family of Fireman Who Was Killed While on Duty,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 21, 1905.
Obituary of Lieut. Henry Bassett, Chicago Daily Tribune, December 22, 1905.