|Agency||Peoria Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||31 to 35|
|Date of Birth||10/5/1894|
|Date of Death||3/22/1929|
|Cause of Death||Struck by object|
|Nature of Death||Trauma|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations , Hose operations|
March 22, 1929, was a very dark day in the history of the Peoria Fire Department. Captain Richard H. Teufel, 34, and Fireman Thomas F. O’Connor, 46, died while battling a fire at the Peoria Market House on 123-127 South Washington Street at the corner of Washington and Fulton Streets. At 5:48 a.m., an alarm signaled the fire and Fire Chief Cornelious Conners and assistant Joe Hamann immediately called for a “33 All Hands” general alarm. Within six minutes every available fire company in the city was enroute to the scene. Both Teufel and O’Conner were dispatched with their respective companies on the initial alarm.
It is believed that the fire started on the third floor of the three-story brick and masonry building. The intense heat activated the sprinkler systems in the building, which prevented the flames from extending to surrounding exposures. In record time, the fire crews had hose lines snaking from every hydrant within a few hundred feet and as many as 15 streams of water were sent into the flames from every exterior vantage point. Teufel, O’Conner, and another fireman, Dick Oglesby, entered the structure, fighting their way through the dense smoke and intense heat, and began to direct a stream of water onto the seat of the fire on the level above them. At Teufel’s direction, Oglesby made his way up the stairs to the second floor to inspect the structure. After his evaluation, he returned to Teufel and O’Conner and reported that the building had suffered quite a bit of damage and could collapse at any moment. The three men remained inside the structure, but moved back to a presumably safer position.
Approximately five minutes later, Teufel suggested that Oglesby conduct a second evaluation of the second floor. Oglesby had just moved a few steps away from Teufel and O’Conner when a loud, ominous crack was heard, and the floor began to fall upon his comrades. The valiant firemen had no chance to escape and both men were buried in a tangled mess of broken timbers and falling bricks. Six other firemen were slightly injured in the collapse. With increased intensity, the flames swept through the building, and the heat and smoke forced the firemen to retreat from possible rescue efforts. At 4:00 p.m., almost eight hours after the collapse, the lifeless bodies of the two gallant firemen were excavated. They were still grasping the nozzle of the hose in the direction of the fire.
Thomas O’Conner, a native Peorian, was survived by his wife, Emma, and two brothers, Patrick and James of Brimfield, Ill. At the time of his death, he was a hoseman on Engine Co. 3 and had been a firefighter for ten years. Services for O’Conner were held on Monday, March 25, 1929 at St. Bernard’s Church.
Teufel, also a native Peorian, was survived by his wife, Caroline. The last two years of his tragically short career were spent at the Central Station commanding Engine 01. Last rites for Teufel, a member of the Mohammed Shrine Patrol, were conducted on Sunday, March 24, 1929, at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
Members of the Peoria Fire Department attended both funerals and accompanied their fallen brothers on their “Last Alarm.”
Summary by Marty Baker and Doug Brignall, Peoria Fire Department