The Baltimore County Fire Department honored three of its firefighters who were lost 25-years-ago today during a fire at Shillers Furniture on Holabird Avenue in Dundalk. The ceremony was held at 1333 hours, the time of the initial alarm. Killed were Firefighter James Kimbel Jr., Firefighter Walter Barowski and Firefighter Henry Rayner.
It was the second largest line-of-duty loss for Baltimore County. Thirteen-years earlier, four firefighters were killed trying to rescue people from a flood following an intense storm.
The account of the fire below comes from the website of the Baltimore County Fallen Firefighters Foundation:
On Monday October 22nd 1984, Fire Box 6-2 was struck out at 13:33hrs for a reported building fire at the Shillers Furniture Store in the 7400 block of Holabird Ave. While enroute Engine 6 (Dundalk) advised they had heavy smoke showing from a mile away. Engine’s 6 & 61 arrived at location at 13:37 and advised dispatch they had a 210′ X 130′ 2 story block building with heavy smoke and fire showing.
While crews from Engine 6 & 61 started an aggressive interior attack, a 2nd alarm was requested at 13:41.
As Engine companies were stretching lines to the interior of the building they noticed that there was in fact a third floor that was not visible from the exterior. A third alarm was struck out at 13:52 hours it was around this time when conditions started to deteriorate rapidly. One firefighter stated that, as he was exiting the building he was almost blown out of the structure by what he describes as flashover-like conditions and reported that three other firefighters were still inside.
He was the last firefighter to leave the building alive.
Several attempts were made to knock down the fire in the rear so that members could reenter the structure and search for the three trapped firefighters, their attempts were unsuccessful. Shortly after, it was reported that three firefighters were found exiting the rear of the building. It was originally thought that these were the firefighters in question, “that was found not to be true after a roll call was conducted” A 4th alarm was struck out at14:12 and the 5th at 14:32 hrs, a special call for 4 more engines was requested at 14:55 hrs.
A roll call of all fire department personnel was conducted, the process revealed that Three Firefighters were missing and could not be accounted for. Efforts were again made to search for the missing firefighter’s however the rescue attempts were hampered due to the many collapses of the structure.
The bodies of Firefighters Walter Bawroski and Henry Rayner, Jr were recovered in the rear of the building later that evening. Firefighter James Kimbel’s body was recovered the next morning in the center portion of the collapsed building.