Firefighters mark the 41st anniversary of Waldbaum fire

On August 2, FDNY members gathered at St. Brendan’s Catholic Church in Midwood to mark the 41st anniversary of the fatal Waldbaum’s supermarket fire. The fire killed six firefighters who died when the roof of the burning building collapsed, plunging the firefighters to their deaths.

The fire began at 8:40 a.m. on August 2, 1978, in a hallway near a compressor room while 23 electricians, plumbers and contractors were renovating the store at 2892 Avenue Y in Sheepshead Bay.

Before long, it escalated to a four-alarm blaze and firefighters from neighboring ladder companies rushed to the scene. Within an hour, 20 firefighters were working to secure the roof when the foundation gave way, causing 12 firefighters to fall into the flames below. Six were rescued and the other six died in the fire.

Additional FDNY units arrived to battle the fire and 34 firefighters, one emergency technician and one Emergency Services police officer were injured.

Lieutenant James Cutillo, 33rd Battalion, and Firefighters Harold Hastings, 42 Battalion; James McManus, Ladder 153; George Rice, Ladder 153; Charles Bouton Ladder 156; and William O’Connor, Ladder 156, were killed that day.

St. Brendan’s is located at Avenue O and East 12th Street.

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