FDNY Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the 23rd Street Fire, the 2nd Deadliest in Department History

October 14, 2016

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro will lead a special commemoration ceremony on Monday, October 17, marking the 50th anniversary of the 23rd Street fire – which took the lives of 12 New York City firefighters on October 17, 1966 – the deadliest day in the history of the FDNY until September 11, 2001, when 343 members were killed at the World Trade Center.

The event will take place at the site of the tragic fire – on East 23rd Street near Broadway, at 12:15 p.m. A high-rise residential building now stands at the site of the deadly fire, across from Madison Square Park, with a plaque mounted on the façade of the structure dedicated to the 12 deceased firefighters. Commissioner Nigro and Department members will lay a wreath in honor of the firefighters lost that day. Several family members of the deceased firefighters are expected to attend the service.

“The 23rd Street fire was a fire unlike any other in our Department’s history, it is a dark day when our city lost 12 brave Firefighters and the FDNY was wounded like never before,” said Commissioner Nigro.  “As we recognize the 50th anniversary of this tragedy, we reaffirm our commitment to never forget the heroes of that awful day and the families they left behind.”

Twelve members of nearly every rank, from Deputy Chief to Probationary Firefighter, made the Supreme Sacrifice that day.  They are: Deputy Chief Thomas A. Reilly and Firefighter William F. McCarron, both of Division 3; Battalion Chief Walter J. Higgins of Battalion 7; Lieutenant Joseph Priore, Firefighter James V. Galanaugh, Firefighter Joseph Kelly, Firefighter Daniel L. Rey, and Firefighter Bernard A. Tepper, all of Engine Company 18; and Lieutenant John J. Finley, Firefighter John G. Berry, Firefighter Rudolph F. Kaminsky and Firefighter Carl Lee, all of Ladder Company 7.

To mark this anniversary, and in memory of those killed that day, the non-profit FDNY Foundation is launching the 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund to support the ongoing FDNY Campaign for Training and Education.  In addition the Department has produced a commemorative book that chronicles the history of the fire, and features never before seen photos and interviews with family members and active FDNY members about the legacy of this fire.  All proceeds from this book benefit the 23rd Street Fire Legacy Fund. More information is available at www.FDNYFoundation.org

A brief documentary produced by FDNY in the aftermath of the fire can be found here.  Media are encouraged to use this rare color archival footage in their coverage with courtesy to FDNY.

For photos of the 12 members and photos of the fire scene and funeral, visit FDNY’s Flickr page.  Please courtesy FDNY when using photos of the fire scene.

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro; Chief of Department James E. Leonard; Families of FDNY members killed in the line of duty at the 23rd Street Fire, many other FDNY officials.

Southeast Corner of 23rd Street and Broadway, Manhattan.

Monday, October 17 – 12:15 p.m.