FDNY Marks 40th Anniversary of Waldbaum's Fire

August 2, 2018

On Thursday, August 2, Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, Chief of Department James E. Leonard, FDNY members, family and friends gathered for a memorial mass at Saint Brendan's Roman Catholic Church in remembrance of the 40th anniversary of the Waldbaum’s fire.

The fire occurred on August, 2, 1978 at a Walbaum’s supermarket on Avenue Y and Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. Nearly 20 Firefighters were on the roof of the supermarket when the central portion gave way, plunging 12 members into the flames.  Six of them were rescued, but another six members died in the tragedy.

Lt. James E. Cutillo of Battalion 33, Firefighter Charles S. Bouton of Ladder 156, Firefighter Harold F. Hastings of Battalion 42, Firefighter James P. McManus of Ladder 153, Firefighter William O’Connor of Ladder 156, and Firefighter George S. Rice of Ladder 153, made the Supreme Sacrifice that day.

“We were standing across the street and we were watching everything,” said Louise O’Connor, widow of Firefighter William O’Connor. “Billy came out of the building, and he saw us and he waved, he got up on the ladder, and he turned around and waved again and shortly after the roof collapsed.”

Brian Hastings was 14 years old when his father, Firefighter Harold F. Hastings, was killed. Years later, he and Caroline McManus, daughter of Firefighter James P. McManus married. Brian said, “There were 18 children who lost their fathers in that fire, my childhood stopped on that day. You didn’t have time to be a kid anymore, now all of a sudden, you’re an adult.”

In addition to the FDNY members who sacrificed their lives that day, 34 Firefighters, one Emergency Medical Technician and one Emergency Services police officer were injured in the fire.

Retired Firefighter Danny Prince, who was assigned to Ladder 156 on the day of the fire, said, “We never forget, we never leave anybody behind and we never forget, this is a tribute to remember them every year.”

For photos from the Waldbaum’s fire, click here.

For photos of the memorial mass, click here.