IFLODD: Firefighter Memorial

Firefighter Record

Firefighter Details

Name George Donovan
Agency Chicago Fire Department
Rank Captain
Type of Firefighter Career
Age Range 41 to 45
Sex Male
Date of Birth 0/0/0
Date of Death 3/1/1957
Cause of Death Struck by object
Nature of Death Trauma
Attribute of Death [not applicable]
Type of Duty Firefighting operations

Incident Details

Incident Name N/A
Incident City Chicago
Incident State IL
Incident Date 3/1/1957 12:0
Incident Location Industry/ Manufacturing
Incident Attribute Structural collapses , Explosions , Fires

Incident Summary

On March 1, 1957, three Chicago Fire Department firefighters were killed at a fire at the Lawrence Corporation factory on W. 41st Street. Employees discovered the fire shortly after noon and notified the Chicago Fire Department. All of the plant employees safely evacuated, but shortly after firefighters arrived on scene an explosion from inside the building caused two of the factory walls to collapse. Battalion Chief Howard Strohacker (29th Battalion), Captain George Donovan (Engine Co. #29), and Firefighter Sylvester Pietrowski (Engine Co. #50) were buried by the debris and suffered fatal injuries.

A witness to the explosion described it as a “puff like a whisper and then a low rumble.” Later investigations proved that the fire had started in the first floor boiler room of the factory and had spread to an empty storage room. The fatal explosion originated in the storage room, as smoke and gases that had built up in the room were ignited when the flames reached them. An inquest determined that no violations of building codes contributed to the fire and no known explosive substances had been located in the building. The City of Chicago later honored the three firemen by naming three playgrounds after them.


“Three Victims Called Heroes in Fiery Blast,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 3, 1957.

“Services Set for 3 Firemen Killed in Blast,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 3, 1957.

“Name 3 Playgrounds for Dead Fire Heroes,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 9, 1957.

“Blast Topples Walls; 3 Firemen Die,” Chicago Daily Tribune, March 2, 1957.

Firefighter and Incident Images

Firefighter and Incident Audio

No Audio for this Firefighter/Incident record