NFPA Journal - July/August 2012 - (Page 88)

>>LOOKING BACK Opening Hell’s Doors The Hartford circus fire of 1944 walls. But others were trapped. Some who managed to escape July 6, 1944, was a warm summer’s day in Hartford, Connectitried to go back into the inferno to rescue loved ones. The Times cut, and a perfect day for a matinee performance of the Ringling reported that one woman, “her clothing charred, her face blackBrothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. Some 7,000 people, mostly women and children, streamed into the big top to catch the show. ened,” tried to fight her way back into the tent, screaming, “My God, my God. My kid’s in there.” One hundred sixty-eight people Twenty minutes after it began, as the audience finished died, many of them children, and almost 500 were injured. Six of applauding The Incomparable Alfred Court’s big cats and bears and awaited the Flying Wallendas’ high-wire act, a fire broke out near the ground on the tent’s sidewall. EyeAccording to witnesses, flames raced across witnesses said it was small at first, contained enough the top of the tent, dropping pieces of burning to extinguish with one or two buckets of water, but no canvas onto the fleeing audience as the band played one could get water on it fast enough. Within minutes “stars and stripes Forever.” the entire big top was in flames. According to witnesses quoted in the July 7, 1944, issue of The New York Times, the dead have never been identified. The Hartford circus fire was flames raced across the top of the circus tent, dropping pieces the worst circus fire in U.S. history. of burning canvas onto the fleeing audience as the band played “Stars and Stripes Forever” as loud as it could. Eventually, the In the aftermath of the event, investigators laid the blame for entire tent collapsed, engulfing hundreds of people still inside. the rapid fire spread on the highly combustible solution used A circus roustabout later told a Times reporter that “it was to waterproof the tent canvas: paraffin applied with gasoline. like you’d opened hell’s doors, and you had all you could do to Though many speculate that the fire was started by a lit cigarette, get your hands over your face and run t’other way.” Those who the actual cause of the blaze remains undetermined. could, ran for the exits. Others slipped under the canvas side—Kathleen Robinson 88 NFPA JOURNAL JULY/AUGUST 2012 Photograph: AP/WIDE WORLD

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NFPA Journal - July/August 2012

NFPA Journal - July/august 2012
First Word
Mail Call
In a Flash
Heads Up
Structural Ops
In Compliance
Electrical Safety
Wildfire Watch
Fenway at 100
Crowning Achievement
Safety at Center Stage
Firefighter Fatalities in the United States, 2011
What’s Hot
Looking Back

NFPA Journal - July/August 2012