President Joe Biden, local fire departments and Boston-area residents and their families are remembering nine firefighters killed in the line of duty during a massive hotel fire more than five decades ago.
Saturday marked the 51st anniversary of the Hotel Vendome fire on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston on June 17, 1972.
Nine firefighters died in the Back Bay blaze, which remains the “largest Line-of-Duty Death incident in the history of the Boston Fire Department,” according to the Boston Fire Historical Society. Eight firefighters were also injured.
In a letter dated Saturday, Biden joined Boston-area residents in honoring the memory of the fallen firefighters from this historic fire.
“RIP Brothers. Remember them, the sacrifices of their families & our public safety family,” the Cambridge Fire Department said in a tweet on Saturday morning.
“When a fire broke out in the iconic Hotel Vendome, the brave firefighters of the Boston Fire Department raced to the scene, saving lives and working to contain the blaze,” Biden wrote in a letter to the department shared by Boston Fire Commissioner Paul Burke on Twitter. “For nine members, this would be their last alarm. The sacrifice they made in service of the people of Boston will always be remembered.”
In his letter, Biden praised firefighters for running toward danger to save lives. The fallen firefighters who died after responding to the Hotel Vendome fire left behind families forever changed by their loss, the president wrote.
“No words can fill the voids that these men left in the hearts of their loved ones,” Biden wrote. “As fathers, sons, husbands, brothers, and friends, their loss was felt deeply by their families and their communities. Their deaths were made even more tragic by the fact that they gave their lives on the early morning of Father’s Day, leaving behind 8 widows to take care of their children without their fathers.”
On Saturday, a group of people gathered at a memorial for the nine fallen firefighters on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, where they laid a wreath with red-and-white flowers to remember the fallen.
The memorial, located not far from the site of the tragedy, was dedicated in 1997 on the 25th anniversary of the fire, according to the Boston Public Library.
“Today, the BFD gave remembrance to the 51st year since the Hotel Vendome Fire where we lost 9 firefighters. Several family members & friends of the lost came from near and far to share a humbling moment. … never forgotten,” the Boston Fire Department said in a tweet Saturday afternoon.
Few people were in the Hotel Vendome when the fire broke out on that day, due to significant renovations underway at the historic hotel, according to the Boston Public Library. Originally built in 1871 as a luxury hotel, the building was being converted into a mixed-use condominium and commercial building when the fire broke out.
Fire crews responded to the hotel at 160 Commonwealth Ave. on a Saturday afternoon, after a worker noticed a fire between the third and fourth floors around 2:30 p.m. and alerted the fire department, according to the Boston Public Library.
A total of 16 engine companies, five ladder companies, two aerial towers, and a heavy rescue company responded to the 4-alarm fire, which had been largely brought under control by 4:30 p.m., according to the Boston Public Library.
Around 5:30 p.m., several crews were cleaning up when the entire southeast corner of the 7-story building collapsed without warning, burying 25 firefighters and a ladder truck in a pile of debris, according to the Boston Public Library.
“Many firefighters operating in the upper floors were trapped in the pile of rubble that ensued,” the Boston Fire Historical Society states on its website.
Officials later determined the cause of the fire to be a combination of factors, including structural deficits in the building caused by the removal of a load-bearing wall during renovations in 1890, which “were exacerbated by the addition of a heating and ventilating duct in 1972, the fire itself, and the millions of gallons of water used to bring it under control,” the Boston Public Library said. A court later determined that no one living was responsible for the collapse.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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