To honor the legacy of bravery, heroism and service to others exhibited by the 12 FDNY Firefighters killed in the line of duty at the 23rd Street fire on Oct. 17, 1966, the FDNY Foundation is proud to announce the creation of the 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund, to support the ongoing FDNY Campaign for Training and Education.
“This was not an ordinary fire, this was the definition of a tragedy,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “It is one of the most painful days in FDNY history, one we will always remember, losses we always carry with us.”
The 23rd Street fire remains the worst loss of New York City firefighters in the line of duty prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was a member of the Third Alarm Association and we were operating a mobile canteen service at the scene of the 23rd Street Fire,” said FDNY Foundation Chairman Stephen Ruzow, who was there when the floor collapsed. “We watched as hundreds of off-duty firefighters, as well as the Commissioner and the Mayor, rushed to the scene.”
The fire had originated in a basement storage area, which was concealed by a four-inch thick cinderblock wall, illegally constructed by the building’s previous owner.
The 12 FDNY members included Deputy Chief Thomas A. Reilly and Firefighter William F. McCarron, both of Division 3; Battalion Chief Walter J. Higgins of Battalion 7; Lieutenant Joseph Priore, Firefighter James V. Galanaugh, Firefighter Joseph Kelly, Firefighter Daniel L. Rey and Firefighter Bernard A. Tepper, all of Engine 18; and Lieutenant John J. Finley, Firefighter John G. Berry, Firefighter Rudolph F. Kaminsky and Firefighter Carl Lee, all of Ladder 7.
Among them, the 12 men were survived by 12 wives and dozens of children. It took more than 12 hours to recover the Firefighters who made the Supreme Sacrifice that night.
Four days later, a procession of FDNY apparatus, each carrying a coffin of one of the victims, made its way down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. 10,000 firefighters lined the street to pay tribute to their fallen comrades.
The FDNY has not stopped paying tribute to the Firefighters who gave their lives that day. Each year, members gather at the site to honor the anniversary. On the 45th anniversary, then-Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano dedicated a new plaque at the site of the fire. Now, we proudly announce the 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund to serve as a lasting way to honor those who made the Supreme Sacrifice 50 years ago.
“This is a most fitting way to honor the memories of those we lost that night,” said Commissioner Nigro. “When we invest in the training and education of our members, we invest in the future of this Department. We invest in the safety of our City. And what better way to fulfill their legacies of honor, duty and service.”
The FDNY Foundation provides funding for programs that advance the Department’s goals, which include maintaining operational excellence, reaching out to the community with an array of fire and health safety programs, and increasing diversity within the Department’s uniformed ranks.
As the Department’s 501(c)(3) non-profit partner, the Foundation generates tax-exempt contributions that benefit all New Yorkers by keeping the FDNY strong and responsive to the community it serves. Foundation funding supports cutting-edge equipment, technology and training for first responders, fire safety education in our schools, free CPR training for the public, and initiatives to introduce a new generation of young people to the world of emergency response.
“The mission of the FDNY Foundation is to give the FDNY the resources it needs to be better trained, better prepared and better equipped than ever before,” said Chairman Ruzow. “The 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund allows us to remember a dark moment in FDNY history, by honoring those who gave so selflessly in answering the call of duty. We honor that service and sacrifice by making sure the FDNY remains the best in the world.”
“Our friends, supporters and corporate partners have enabled us to support every aspect of the critical mission of the FDNY,” said FDNY Foundation Vice Chairman Robert Zito. “We have made it possible for the FDNY to bring fire safety education to vulnerable populations across the city, to train New Yorkers in the skills they need to save a life by preparing them to step in and perform CPR and to lead unprecedented initiatives like Get Alarmed NYC. With support for the 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund, we will also provide the FDNY with the resources it needs to better train its members, honoring the memories of those who sacrificed their lives by better preparing the members who are carrying on their legacies.”
The sacrifice of the 12 Firefighters who lost their lives in the 23rd Street Fire is a constant reminder of the dangers FDNY members face every time they answer the call. The 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund serves as a lasting expression of our vow to never forget and always advance.
Contributions to the 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund support the FDNY Campaign for Training and Education, allowing the Foundation to invest in the FDNY’s initiatives to: integrate new technology into classroom training, support hands-on simulation training and continue to develop educational partnerships with colleges and universities.
“Our Fire and EMS uniformed personnel have been tasked with keeping New York City safe,” said Chief James Hodgens, who oversees the Department’s Bureau of Training. “This is an extraordinary challenge, one we can meet only by ensuring they have the skills to safely and effectively respond to fires, medical emergencies, natural disasters and terrorist attacks. The enhanced training our members can receive thanks to support from the FDNY Campaign for Training and Education will help prepare them to best respond to every call, ensuring the safety of the greatest city in the world.”
Firefighters and Emergency Medical personnel are tasked with absorbing highly technical information on a range of topics including HazMat response, patient care, antidote administration, technical rescue and much more. With support from the Foundation, FDNY Training Chiefs will incorporate interactive classroom technology that allows instructors to monitor individual and class development. FDNY members will respond electronically to the instructor’s questions, giving valuable real-time feedback on how the material is being grasped. Additional plans include providing members access to tablets while in Firefighter, EMT and Paramedic training.
Enhancements to hands-on simulation training include accessing new-generation web-based simulations, the creation of replicated environments for mass casualty drills and tactical resources, such as forcible entry simulators and live fire simulation. These simulators give responders the invaluable opportunity to practice skills and decision-making in a safe and realistic environment, preparing them for the life and death, split-second decisions they will make under highly stressful situations.
The 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund honors the memories of the Firefighters who gave their lives 50 years ago in selfless service by funding these enhanced training initiatives and keeping the FDNY strong. The FDNY Foundation and its Board Members are deeply committed to the uniformed personnel of the FDNY and will continue to work tirelessly to honor every member’s sacrifice, honor and bravery. The Department faces many challenges, and the Foundation remains committed to ensuring that New York City’s Bravest has the best resources in the world.
To contribute to the 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund, click here and select “23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund” in the drop down menu.
"This is a most fitting way to honor the memories of those we lost that night. When we invest in the training and education of our members, we invest in the future of this Department. We invest in the safety of our City. And what better way to fulfill their legacies of honor, duty and service."