In the heart of Brockton’s business district, people usually flocked to the downtown area to shop or take in a show in what was a busy part of the city. Sunday, March 9, 1941, like all other Sundays, drew large crowds looking for the entertainment of a movie or vaudeville show.
The Strand Theatre, located on a large block at the corner of Main and School Streets, was showing the film "Hoosier School Boy" starring Mickey Rooney. "Secret Evidence" filled out the double bill.
Long after the last show, the night custodian discovered a fire in the basement and instructed his helper to activate the fire alarm box located at Main and High Street. At 12:38 a.m., the fire department received box 1311 and sent the first alarm apparatus to the scene. A second alarm followed shortly after the first, and finally a general alarm was sounded bringing all of Brockton’s apparatus to the Strand.
When firefighters first arrived, all indications were that they were not dealing with a very serious fire. However, as time progressed, the fire gained headway. This became more apparent to those on the outside of the theatre than crews working inside.
The fire started in the basement and was knocked down by crews with cellar pipes while flames raced through the vertical voids in the walls and ventilation ducts. Firefighters worked feverishly to extinguish hidden fire while crews opened walls and ceilings in the lobby and under the balcony. A number of men moved up to the balcony to attack the fire which had made its way to the auditorium ceiling just below the roof.
The first signs of visible outside fire erupted from the southwest corner of the building as outside crews played a large hose-line on the exposed flames. Firefighters on the balcony continued their efforts to expose the fire within the ceiling as hose streams were directed overhead from the auditorium floor.
Less than one hour after the initial alarm, the Strand Theatre fire changed the course of history for the City of Brockton and its fire department, particularly for those men working on the balcony. Suddenly, without warning, the west section of the roof came down in a crash that rested its weight on top of many unsuspecting firefighters and knocked several from the balcony and roof to the auditorium below.
Remaining, uninjured firefighters worked diligently in the chaos and rubble to free their comrades despite the danger and fear of further collapse. Eventually, fire departments from surrounding towns relieved crews from Brockton. Later that morning, the dead and injured firefighters were removed from the scene as the department and outside agencies faced the difficult task of determining the cause of the fire and the subsequent collapse.
In all, 13 Firefighters were killed, and more than 20 injured when what was termed a routine fire, turned into disaster. Since then, each year on March 10th a commemorative service is held at Brockton City Hall where a monument rests in honor of the men who died.
Captain John F. Carroll--Ladder Company 3
Lieutenant Raymond A. Mitchell--Engine Company 4
Firefighter Roy A. McKeraghan--Squad A
Firefighter Denis P. Murphy--Squad A
Firefighter William J. Murphy--Squad A
Firefighter Daniel C. O'Brien--Squad A
Firefighter George A. Collins--Engine Company 1
Firefighter Frederick F. Kelley--Engine Company 1
Firefighter Martin Lipper--Engine Company 1
Firefighter Henry E. Sullivan--Engine Company 1
Firefighter Bartholomew Herlihy--Ladder Company 1
Firefighter John M. McNeill--Ladder Company 1
Firefighter Matthew E. McGeary--Ladder Company 3