IFLODD: Firefighter Memorial

Firefighter Record

Firefighter Details

Name John Geiss
Agency Chicago Fire Department
Rank Pipeman
Type of Firefighter Career
Age Range 21 to 25
Sex Male
Date of Birth 0/0/0
Date of Death 5/4/1867
Cause of Death Struck by object
Nature of Death Trauma
Attribute of Death [not applicable]
Type of Duty Firefighting operations , Hose operations

Incident Details

Incident Name N/A
Incident City Chicago
Incident State IL
Incident Date 5/4/1867 22:40
Incident Location Store/Office
Incident Attribute Structural collapses , Fires

Incident Summary

On May 4, 1867, three Chicago Fire Department firefighters died in the line of duty while fighting a commercial fire on South Water Street. Pipeman Jacob Held and Pipeman Nicholas Barth, both assigned to the steam fire engine “J.B. Rice” (Engine 10), and Pipeman John Geiss assigned to the steam fire engine “Long John” (Engine 1), were killed in a structural collapse.

Firefighters responded to the fire at around 10:40PM on May 3, and successfully contained the flames within the five-story brick building. By 1AM on May 4, the flames were largely extinguished and a number of fire companies returned to quarters. Around 1:30AM, firefighters from Engine 1 and Engine 10 were checking for small pockets of fire on the first and second floors of the building when the eastern outer wall collapsed. The wall collapse caused the first and second floors to fall into the building’s basement, and six firefighters were buried in the debris. Three firefighters were rescued from the debris with serious injuries, but Barth, Held, and Geiss were killed.

Barth was survived by his widow and 5 children.

Held was survived by his widow and 6 children.

Geiss, a German immigrant, was the brother of Chicago Fire Department Pipeman Ignatz Geiss, who died in the line of duty in 1865.


“Another Destructive Fire,” Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1867.

“The South Water Street Calamity,” Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1867.

“Liberal Donations to the Firemen,” Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1867.

“Firemen’s Funeral,” Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1867.

Firefighter and Incident Images

Firefighter and Incident Audio

No Audio for this Firefighter/Incident record