Honoring Fallen Heroes Of 1978’s Waldbaum’s Fire

On this date 32 years ago, six firefighters perished in what, at the time, was the largest loss of firefighters in a single fire in Brooklyn history. At approximately 9:02 a.m., the roof of Waldbaum’s at Avenue Y and Ocean Avenue (where Staples is today) collapsed, sending at least 12 firefighters into the inferno. In battling the blaze to save the lives of their fellow laddermen, 34 firefighters were injured.

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.

On the anniversary of their supreme sacrifice, John Dwyer of JGDwyerPhotography put together the above slideshow. Dwyer has been photographing the FDNY in action since the 1970s.

In 1999, the city renamed the corner “Firemen’s Corner,” in what is said to be the last public dedication to honor the fallen heroes.

A Facebook page frequently visited by family and friends also keeps the memory of those who passed alive, as does an annual mass held this morning at St. Brendans Church. You can also read the account of Steve Spak, another FDNY photographer on the scene that morning.


Sign in or become a Bklyner member to join the conversation.