We regret to report the passing of retired Hamden Firefighter William P. Davin on January 14, 2017, following a long illness. He was 74 years old.
Bill was a member of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association and the Hamden Guardian Services Retirees Association.
Bill began his fire service career in April 1959 as a member of the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Company, No. 5, and was appointed to the Hamden Fire Department as a career member in October 1965, where he served for thirty years.
Sisk Brothers of Hamden was in charge of arrangements. Burial was private.
Sixty years ago this week, 62 Franklin Street in New Haven was the scene of the worst fire in that city's history. Ninety-nine people were at work in a typical loft building, built in 1871, which housed five businesses. Nine of them did not make it out alive, six more died soon thereafter, and many others received severe injuries.
Virtually every on and off duty New Haven firefighter responded to the scene of the fire, which started on the first floor around 2:30 in the afternoon. In the January 31, 1957 edition of The Hamden Chronicle, Hamden Civil Defense coordinator, Battalion Chief V. Paul Leddy, reported that "a considerable store of emergency medical equipment kept at Hamden town hall was rushed to the fire scene."
The Chronicle also reported, "The Hamden Fire Department, receiving word that most of the pieces of apparatus of the City of New Haven had been directed to the fire, put its own equipment on emergency stand by to cover for New Haven firemen in the event of any additional fire alarms in other sections of the city."
The cause of the fire was never officially determined.
1957 Franklin Street Fire photo by John Mongillo, Sr. (HFRA Collection)
According to news accounts in the New Haven Evening Register, the first floor was occupied by the Thomas Machinery Sales and S.L. Stanley Co., a sheet metal workshop. On the third floor were the Andy-Tommy and Morris Baer Dress companies. The top floor was occupied by Nylco Manufacturing Co. and the Jo-Al Dress Co.
According to the same news accounts, there were numerous acts of bravery. Thomas Dobrowski, then 38, was a sheet metal worker who was employed on the first floor. Dobrowski and three of his cousins, Frank, Stanley and Walter Myjak, rescued some women trapped on the third floor fire escape.
The most selfless acts that afternoon were performed by sheet metal shop owner Joseph Nastri and dressmaker Morris Baer, who lost their lives while attempting to save workers in their businesses. Two Hamden residents perished in the fire, Mrs. Jessie Mongillo, 42, of 945 Ridge Road, and Mr. Nastri, who resided at 261 Broadway.
The New Haven Evening Register, January 25, 1957 (Photo by John Mongillo, Sr., courtesy of Doug Yocher)
Ironically, the second worst fire in the city's history also occurred on Franklin Street sixteen years earlier, when ten people lost their lives at the New Haven Quilt and Pad Co.
Most of Franklin Street, including the scene of the fire, is long gone, having been displaced by Interstate 91 and various connectors thereto.
Check out the link below to a YouTube video slideshow of images of that horrible tragedy.
The HFRA website thanks Lieutenant Daryl Osiecki for compiling the statistics on individual company runs during the past calendar year. 2016 was the second year which saw more than 10,000 total runs of Hamden apparatus. The number of runs for each company are posted below.
This late-1960s photo shows an unidentified Hamden firefighter (with booster line), HPD Sgt. Henry "Dutch" Otto and HFD Lieut. Jack Laffin.
The late model Camaro flipped over on Dixwell Avenue at the railroad bridge when the young driver "tried to climb the abutment on left," according to notations on the photo. The young woman driver was pinned inside her car, but was extricated by firefighters who pried open the passenger side door.