|Agency||Chicago Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||41 to 45|
|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|
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.