20-years-ago: DC firefighters Louis Matthews & Anthony Phillips killed in townhouse fire

Fire badly burned Joe Morgan

Read DCFD report on fire at 3146 Cherry Road, NE

NIST Simulation of the Dynamics of the Fire at 3146 Cherry Road NE
Washington D.C., May 30, 1999

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(This is adapted with updated links from the STATter911 post about the 15th anniversary of the fire.)

Today (Thursday, May 30) is the 20th anniversary of the deaths of two District of Columbia firefighters, Louis Matthews and Anthony Phillips. Both men died due to injuries sustained at an overnight townhouse fire at 3146 Cherry Road, NE.

Firefighter Phillips, of Engine 10, was 30-years-old. He was pronounced dead at the Washington Hospital Center shortly after the fire. Firefighter Matthews, of Engine 26, was 29-years-old and died the following afternoon.

DC Phillips & Matthews

The fire almost killed Firefighter Joe Morgan, who was later forced to retire from the DC Fire & EMS Department due to his injuries.

The firefighters were burned while operating on the first floor at the top of the stairwell to the basement.

DC Joe Morgan

Here is a description of the fire from the report of the reconstruction committee formed by the department to investigate the blaze:

Evidence has shown that the fire started in an electrical junction box in the space between the basement ceiling and the first floor, initially smoldered and consumed most of the air in the basement. The fire grew rapidly when the basement sliding glass door was broken, producing large amounts of super-heated fire gases. The fire gases traveled extremely quickly up the basement stairway to the first floor. The injured fire fighters were in the path of the superheated gases and were burned almost instantly.

In the executive summary of the report, chaired by DC Assistant Chief Joseph Herr, who later became fire chief in Howard County, Maryland, a pointed reference was made to lessons that should have been learned following a line-of-duty-death 17-months earlier:

Many of the recommendations contained in this report are the same recommendations made in a report of the investigation of the death of Sergeant John Carter in the Kennedy Street fire of October 24, 1997. Further inaction on these recommendations cannot be tolerated.

Below is a video from the DC Firefighters Burn Foundation that looks at the Cherry Road fire and includes an interview with Joe Morgan.

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