May 4th is International Firefighters’ Day. This observance began in 1999 in an effort to remember the deaths of five firefighters who died in a wildfire at Linton in Victoria, Australia.
Today, in honor of all firefighters, we want to highlight IFLODD, the Illinois Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths digital image collection database which documents the ultimate sacrifice of more than 800 Illinois firefighters over the past 156 years. The database has a basic search which allows searching by name, year, agency or type of firefighter. A sophisticated advanced search contains options for searching by details such as type of incident, incident location, cause of death, etc. Additional features include a slide show on funerals; image and audio searches; interactive charts; and an online tutorial.
While some entries have very basic information about the circumstances of the death, others include photographs and oral history presented as audio and text. For example, from this entry we learn that August Kirchoff, just 17, was the first Peoria fireman killed in the line of duty. He died from injuries sustained while fighting a fire at the Gus Lisey City Brewery at 705 North Water Street.
“Around 12:30AM, just four hours after the initial alarm and less than 30 minutes after Kirchoff’s appointment, disaster struck. Five firemen– John McKee, James Hazzard, Fred Brons, Harry Palmer and August Kirchoff– were advancing a hoseline into the ruins of the malt house when a huge brick wall crashed down upon them. With brick and mortar piled high above the fallen men, firefighters and officers alike worked frantically to free them. McKee, Hazzard, Palmer and Brons eventually recovered from their injuries. Kirchoff, however, died from a fractured skull.”
Images of the building as well as August’s grave marker are also provided.
The earliest entries for Chicago list the names of 10 firefighters killed on October 19, 1857. All of them died when the structures they were trying to save collapsed. A search of the Chicago Tribune uncovered a detailed article of the event, with the headline: “TERRIBLE CONFLAGRATION. Loss Over Five Hundred Thousand Dollars! THIRTEEN LIVES LOST.”