On the Fourth of July 1950, a freak lightning strike killed three and injured several others outside the 65 West Shepard Avenue home of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard A. Dorman, where the organizational meeting of the Mix District Volunteer Fire Co. No. 7 had taken place in November 1924.
The occasion was a gathering of family members and friends to celebrate the birthday of the Dormans' son, Leonard E. Dorman, 20, who was among the injured. The younger Dorman had been a member of Mix District Co 7 since 1945. Also among the injured was the late Frank Warner, then 26, also a member of Co. 7. He reported that there was no indication of storm activity in the area. The lightning strike was totally unexpected.
The Hamden Fire Department responded under the command of Capt. Everett Doherty. According to details provided in the Hamden Chronicle article below, a chain hanging from a nearby tree conducted the fatal electrical charge.
This was one of Hamden's earliest mass casualty incidents on record. Police, fire and ambulance personnel worked valiantly to render assistance to the survivors. Rev. Joseph Peters of the Mt. Carmel Congregational Church also responded to render spiritual support to the surviving family members. Three months later, Rev. Peters would be appointed with Fr. Bernard Miller, assistant pastor at St. Rita's Church, as one of the first two chaplains of the Hamden Fire Department.
In the years that followed, this tragic incident was often cited in local warnings for people to avoid standing beneath trees during electrical storms.
The Hamden Chronicle, July 6, 1950 (Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
Capt. Everett Doherty started his career on the Hamden Fire Department in late 1927. He retired in 1966 at the rank of deputy chief. Lt. Paul Leddy was appointed in November 1941. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1949, captain in 1951 and named battalion chief in 1954. In November 1960, B/C Leddy was appointed Chief of the Department, a position in which he served until his 1984 retirement.
Lt. James Strain was appointed in 1942, became a lieutenant in 1949, captain in 1954 and deputy chief in 1961. He retired in 1973. Firefighter Francis "Chalkie" Leddy was appointed in 1946, was promoted to lieutenant in 1956, captain in 1964 and deputy chief in 1970. He retired in 1986.
Firefighter Fred Fletcher was appointed in 1946 and retired in 1980. Firefighter Dan O'Connell joined the department in 1948 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1963. He retired in 1986. Co. 5 volunteer firefighter Joe Rahl joined the department as a career member in 1956. Joe served 33 more years before his retirement in late 1989. Joe, who turns 91 this year, is the only surviving member of the crew mentioned in the 1950 article. He is currently a member of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association.