“It Just Wasn’t Our Day, I Guess”

10 March 1941, theater collapse kills 13 Brockton, Massachusetts firemen.


The Strand Theatre fire, and collapse, is often overlooked. On 10 March 1941, Brockton firefighters were alerted to Box 1311 by a custodial worker. A fire in the basement initially did not seem too serious to those inside. While the basement fire was being quickly knocked, it ran the pipes up into the balcony and roof.

Crews knocked down the fire in the basement with cellar pipes while flames raced through the vertical voids in the walls and ventilation ducts. Firefighters worked feverishly to extinguish hidden fire while crews opened walls and ceilings in the lobby and under the balcony. A number of men moved up to the balcony to attack the fire which had made its way to the auditorium ceiling just below the roof. More from Brockton Local 144:

“The first signs of visible outside fire erupted from the southwest corner of the building as outside crews played a large hose-line on the exposed flames. Firefighters on the balcony continued their efforts to expose the fire within the ceiling as hose streams were directed overhead from the auditorium floor.”

“Less than one hour later, the Strand Theatre Fire turned from a routine fire into one of the worst tragedies in Brockton and Massachusetts history when the west section of the roof collapsed, killing 13 firefighters and injuring 20 firefighters.”

“Uninjured firefighters worked tirelessly to save their fellow brothers despite the danger and fear of another collapse. Eventually, fire departments from neighboring towns relieved Brockton firefighters.”

“No definite cause for the fire was ever discovered. Initial reports of arson proved to be inconclusive. Further investigation revealed that the unprotected steel roof trusses played a major role in the collapse. The heat of the fire within the concealed space between the roof and the auditorium ceiling was believed to have distorted the steel trusses, causing them to buckle and separate with ease. Experts questioned the effectiveness of the construction and design used in the roof assembly. Some reports state that the weight of a previous snowfall may have added to the collapse. However, witness accounts and photographs indicate a minimal amount of snow.”

“Every year on March 10th a commemorative service is held at Brockton City Hall to honor the 13 Brockton firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice that winter night”

Captain John F. Carroll, Ladder Company 3
Lieutenant Raymond A. Mitchell, Engine Company 4
Firefighter Roy A. McKeraghan, Squad A
Firefighter Denis P. Murphy, Squad A
Firefighter William J. Murphy, Squad A
Firefighter Daniel C. O’Brien, Squad A
Firefighter George A. Collins, Engine Company 1
Firefighter Frederick F. Kelley, Engine Company 1
Firefighter Martin E. Lipper, Engine Company 1
Firefighter Henry E. Sullivan, Engine Company 1
Firefighter Bartholomew Herlihy, Ladder Company 1
Firefighter Matthew E. McGeary, Ladder Company 3
Firefighter John M. McNeill, Ladder Company 1

“HORRORS AND HEROES: Brockton’s Strand Theatre fire disaster recalled”, Enterprise News.com, May 2008
“A memory painful and indelible”, Boston Globe, May 2008
Brockton Local 144, Strand Theater Fire History and Remembrance





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