Southern Brooklyn

Families Gather To Remember Six Firefighters Killed In 1978 Waldaum’s Fire In Sheepshead Bay

1
Commisioner Nigro with NYPD Detective William O'Connor, Jr., the son of one of the fallen firefighters.  (Photo by Mike T. Wright)
Commisioner Nigro with NYPD Detective William O’Connor, Jr., the son of one of the fallen firefighters. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

Friends, family and FDNY colleagues gathered at Saint Brendan’s Church in Midwood on Saturday, marking the 36th anniversary of an historic blaze at the Sheepshead Bay Waldbaum’s that claimed six lives.

The August 2, 1978 fire broke out at Waldbaum’s, then located at Ocean Avenue and Avenue Y (now the site of Staples). As the blaze ripped through the building, area firefighters wrestled to bring it under control. At approximately 9:02 a.m., the roof gave in, plunging at least a dozen of New York’s Bravest into the inferno.

Attendees gather in front of the church after the service. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)
Attendees gather in front of the church after the service. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

In all, six firefighters died and another 34 were injured in what became the largest loss of firefighters in a single fire in Brooklyn history.

In 1999, the city renamed the corner “Firemen’s Corner.” A street sign and plaque continue to honor the fallen.

FDNY's Emerald Society Pipes & Drums performed at the service  .(Photo by Mike T. Wright)
FDNY’s Emerald Society Pipes & Drums performed at the service .(Photo by Mike T. Wright)

The heroic firefighters who died in the blaze on August 2, 1978, are FF George Rice, 38, Ladder 153; FF James McManus, 48; Cov. Lt. James Cutillo, 39, 33rd Battalion; FF Harold Hastings, 39, 42nd Battalion; FF Charles Bouton, 38, Ladder 156; and William O’Connor, 29 of Ladder 156.

The service in Midwood this weekend was attended by newly appointed FDNY Comissioner Daniel Nigro, who said that the event spurred additional training regimes to protect future fire-eaters, and that the department will continue to come together every August 2 to recognize the victims of the Waldbaum’s blaze.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.  (Photo by Mike T. Wright)
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

For the 2010 anniversary, John Dwyer of JGDwyerPhotography put together the below slideshow. Dwyer has been photographing the FDNY in action since the 1970s.

Advertisement