First Responders Remembered During Memorial Service
In the mid-afternoon hours of June 18, 1934, members of the Jamestown Fire Department were summoned to assist firefighters in Fluvanna quell a rapidly deteriorating situation at the Richfield Oil Company.
An employee of the Fluvanna Avenue business had finished filling his gasoline tanker at the storage yard when a spark from the truck’s ignition coil caused vapors in the air to explode. The gasoline-soaked ground around the refinery created a massive inferno, aided by several explosions within 15 minutes that sent flames 250 feet into the air.
Responding from Jamestown’s Engine Co. 5 were Harold D. Anderson, Oscar H. Bloom and Walter H. Kastenhuber. Chief’s Aide Raymond W. Allison from Station 1 at City Hall also raced to the scene.
When three large gas tanks at the refinery exploded, the blaze swept over the firefighters — knocking some of them to the ground while killing others instantly. Spectators who had gathered to witness the unprecedented fire also found themselves in the fire’s path.
Kastenhuber and Bloom, both badly burned, died at the scene. Allison and Anderson died the following day of their injuries.
Three civilians also died, while many others suffered a range of burn injuries.
On Sunday, members the Morton Club Beneficiary Association of the Jamestown Fire Department held its annual memorial service at Station 5 near the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and West Sixth Street.
A bell was rung for each Jamestown firefighter who died while in the line of duty. For the first time, the names of all city firefighters who have passed away were read aloud.
“We wanted to recognize all those who have served that are no longer with us,” said Chet Harvey, deputy fire chief.
Leo Duliba, historian of the Jamestown Fire Department and retired firefighter, said he felt it was important to remember all the members who helped shaped the department into what it is today.
“These were the firefighters that stoked the fires and the steamers, that manned the horses and responded to fires with the early antique hoses and units,” Duliba said. “These are the guys that hung on the back step of the truck going to fires when it was below-zero.
“These are to the chief’s aids that no longer exist here,” he continued. “These are to the mechanics that no longer exist. And to the dispatchers that no longer exist that were all part of the professional fire department brotherhood that we call the Jamestown Fire Department.”
Duliba also commented on the number of families who have served within the department. Specifically, he noted two brothers of George D. Morton — who died in the line of duty on Feb. 7, 1927 — who later became members, one of whom rose to the rank of captain.
“We have brothers who have served together,” Duliba said. “Fathers, sons, grandfathers, grandsons that have served the fire department.”
Fire protection was organized in the city in 1827. The career Jamestown Fire Department was established in March 1911.