Written by Museum Historian Don Whitney
District Chief John F. Egan was on the job
in Boston for twenty-eight years when he responded on March 10, 1893 to a six
story building, showing fire on Kingston Street. Directing his men in the bowels
of the fire, he suddenly found his escape cut off, prompting him to dash up the
stairs to the roof.
Beneath him, the six story building was
fully involved with fire. He threw his helmet to attract attention of the
firemen. The crowd gasped when the saw, through the smoke, the figure of a man
trapped on the roof.
His only means of escape was to pull himself
hand over hand over the telegraph cables over the street to the roof of the
building across the street. His strength, sapped by the fire and exhaustion,
could not let him go further than half-way. Dangling six stories above the
street, it seemed like the end was near.
The officer of Ladder 3 led his crew to the
roof of the opposite building. He had the laddermen tie a rope to the cable. One
of them cut the cable with an ax, permitting the men to slowly lower the Chief
to the second floor level where his grip finally failed, and he dropped into a
waiting life net.
He continued to direct the operations at the
On February 5, 1898, five years later,
District Chief Egan's luck ran out. A great blizzard had buried Boston in
fifteen inches of snow and 3 alarms were struck on Box 412 for 116 Merriman
District Chief Egan was leading the members
of Engine 39 and 7 in the fifth floor of the building, when it shook violenty
Five tough men and their Chief John F. Egan,
A piece of the actual Telegraph Cable is
on Display on the second floor of the Portland Fire Museum (it is accompanied by
a picture of Chief Egan)
Photo of the Telegraph Cable (click to enlarge)
~Information Source: "Inside the
Fire Lines" Boston Sparks Association, Inc. Vol.7 No.1