The recent tragic death of a Worcester firefighter at a working fire brings the realities of the job to all firefighters. Funerals are one of the few times a firefighter ever considers or realizes the dangers of our chosen line of work. If a firefighter dwelled on this he would never be able to do his job.
In the Buffalo Fire Department family, December and the holiday season is a somber time with lasting memories of the propane explosion on Dec. 27, 1983. The worst loss of life in the fire department’s history.
At 20:23 hours a full fire assignment was dispatched to Buffalo Box 191 North Division and Grosvenor Streets. Within minutes of reporting on location a tremendous explosion occurred and the five firefighters from T-5 were instantly killed along with two civilians. The blast from the explosion was so intense and devastating that it leveled the three-story brick building located on North Division and Grosvenor. Both Engine 32 and Truck 5 were blown 35 feet across the street into a brick building. Over 130 buildings were damaged, over 70 civilians were injured and 19 additional firefighters injured during the rescue operation.
I had five years on the job at Rescue-2 and I remember this night like it was yesterday. Twelve years later I was assigned to Truck 5 as lieutenant. My first day there the memories were vibrant and overwhelming. I was so proud to work on the same truck as these brave men before me.
In my 32 years on the job I had many close calls and many times I survived because of the brave firefighters that worked along side me.
So as all of the Buffalo fire department family approaches this Christmas we remember the fallen heroes of Truck 5. Firefighters Michael Catanzaro, Mike Austin, Tony Waszkielewicz, Red Lickfeld and Matty Colpoys. Five brave firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice and will never be forgotten. RIP.
Retired Buffalo Fire Department