Illinois Fire Service Institute

 

Firefighter Record

Firefighter Details

Name Charles Harrsch
Agency Chicago Fire Department
Rank Firefighter
Type of Firefighter Career
Age Range 36 to 40
Sex Male
Date of Birth 0/0/0
Date of Death 8/20/1940
Cause of Death Contact/Exposure
Nature of Death Burns
Attribute of Death [not applicable]
Type of Duty Firefighting operations , Hazardous materials response , Hose operations

Incident Details

Incident Name Van Schaack Brothers Chemical Works Fire
Incident City Chicago
Incident State IL
Incident Date 8/17/1940
Incident Location Industry/ Manufacturing
Incident Attribute Explosions , Fires

Incident Summary

On August 17, 1940, a fire erupted at the Van Schaack Brothers Chemical factory in Chicago. The fire started when a light bulb burst and ignited fumes from a manufacturing chemical named benzol, but the Chicago Fire Department responded and successfully extinguished the small blaze. Aware of the danger of additional chemical explosions, fire officers ordered firefighters out of the building, keeping two hose lines ready in case of any further explosions. Before all of the firefighters could be evacuated, however, a larger explosion rocked the factory.

Firefighters and officers from Engine 43, Engine 14, Engine 106, Engine 114, and Truck 13, were removing their equipment from a narrow hallway in the factory when the explosion sent flames bursting through the windows around them. Despite the potential for further explosions, Fire Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan led a team to rescue the victims. There were no more explosions, but four firefighters, Lieutenant William Schmidt (Engine 114), Lieutenant James Mulcahy (Engine 43), Firefighter Ray Carroll (Engine 43), and Firefighter Alfred Schilling (Truck 13), had been killed in the blast. Nine other firefighters, including two chiefs, were injured and Firefighter Charles Harrsch (Engine 43) died from his burns two days later. Damages to the factory were estimated to be $1,000.

Citations:

“Four Firemen Die, 9 Hurt in Chemical Blast,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1940.

“Rites Are Arranged for a 4 Firemen Blast Victims; Inquest Set,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 19, 1940.

“Fireman Burned in Blast at Chemical Plant Dies,” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 20, 1940.


Firefighter and Incident Images

Firefighter and Incident Audio

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