WORCESTER (CBS) — Worcester has been hit hard by firefighter deaths. There is a new tribute to the “Worcester Six” for the upcoming 20th anniversary of the incident.
On Dec. 3, 1999, six Worcester firefighters lost their lives. The new exhibit shows articles about and photos of the firefighters.
“When I first walked in here it instantly brought back memories,” said Worcester Fire Chief Michael Lavoie.
He worked the day of the Cold Storage Fire, a raging inferno that swept through the abandoned Worcester warehouse.
Firefighters thought two people were inside. They searched, becoming disoriented through the maze-like building, and smoke hindered their visibility.
Firefighters Paul Brotherton, Timothy Jackson, Jeremiah Lucey, James Lyons, Jospeh McGuirk and Thomas Spencer did not make it out.
“We don’t forget the legacy our brothers left us Dec. 3, 1999,” said Worcester firefighter Gary Fleischer.
The city’s historical fire society saved lots of items after the fire. The two decades mark seemed like a fitting time to share them.
“It was difficult for us. Eight days of searching and then wakes and funerals and the cold. It was heartbreaking,” Lavoie said.
The exhibit at Union Station is as much as tribute to the men who lost their lives as it is to the people of Worcester.
“Maybe they already know the story, but they’ve forgotten how overwhelming the community was to support us,” Fleischer said.
The exhibit also shows how the tragedy prompted changes worldwide to firefighting techniques, training and even equipment.
“We learned a lot of lessons from this warehouse fire,” Lavoie said.
Lavoie said he wants to make sure people don’t forget what happened.
“I remember marching down Grove Street in that procession, and there was not one sound but you could see the little kids holding signs,” he said. “Twenty years later it makes me emotional.”
The exhibit will be open from Saturday through Wednesday morning.