IFLODD: Firefighter Memorial

Firefighter Record

Firefighter Details

Name Harry Durham
Agency Springfield Fire Department
Rank Assistant Chief
Type of Firefighter Career
Age Range [Unknown]
Sex Male
Date of Birth 0/0/0
Date of Death 3/21/1932
Cause of Death Contact/Exposure
Nature of Death Burns
Attribute of Death [not applicable]
Type of Duty Firefighting operations

Incident Details

Incident Name N/A
Incident City Springfield
Incident State IL
Incident Date 3/20/1932 19:30
Incident Location Public assembly
Incident Attribute Explosions , Fires , Gas leaks

Incident Summary

On March 20, 1932, Assistant Chief Harry Durham and Captain Carl J. Gaessler of the Springfield Fire Department were fatally injured in the line of duty while fighting a fire at Springfield High School. Durham died from burn injuries on March 21, and Gaessler succumbed to his burn injuries on April 7.

Shortly before 8PM on March 20, firefighters responded to an alarm for a fire at the school. Unaware that the fire involved an active gas leak, firefighters entered the school to locate the flames. When Durham opened a door between the boiler room and the gas meter room, the leaking gas ignited, causing an explosion that burned Durham, Gaessler, two other firefighters, three school employees, and two students. Two other explosions occurred during firefighting operations, injuring four other people, including one firefighter, and, on March 22, a school janitor died from burn injuries he received during the fire.

Funeral services for Durham were held at First Presbyterian Church on March 24, and he was interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery. He was survived by his widow and four siblings.

Funeral services for Gaessler were held at St. John’s Lutheran Church on April 9, and he was interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery. A member of the Springfield Fire Department for nine years, Gaessler was survived by his widow and mother.


“Disagree on S.H.S. Fire Cause,” Illinois State Register, March 21, 1932.

“Second Victim of High School Blast Dies in St. John’s,” Illinois State Register, March 22, 1932.

“Capt. Gaessler Funeral will be Saturday,” Illinois State Register, April 8, 1932.

Firefighter and Incident Images

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Firefighter and Incident Audio

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