by Albert B. Sears, Jr., Fire Investigator, NFPA Fire Record Department
CORRY, Pennsylvania, is a small city with a population of 8,000 people, located in northwestern Pennsylvania. As in many small cities, Corry's downtown area is almost deserted from Saturday evening until Monday morning. Very few people are normally in this area during these hours, but on March 29, 1970, Easter Sunday, this was not the case. At 9:26 P.M. firefighters of Corry's volunteer fire department responded to a box alarm for a fire in a paint store. Many spectators jammed the streets to watch the firefighters in action, not expecting that they were about to witness five of Corry's young volunteer firefighters die beneath tons of fallen rubble.
The building involved was located on the main street between offices for a manufacturing company and a vacant store. It shared common walls with both buildings. The two-story heavy timber and brick building was about 90 years old. It had been divided into two parts by a tile block wall, one part occupied by a savings and loan association and the other part by a retail paint store.
A partition in the paint store about 1/2 of the way from the rear separated the sales area from the storage area. A dropped ceiling had been installed some years ago leaving a large four-foot space between the old and new ceilings. (See Sketch 1.) The end of the concealed space was open at the rear to a mezzanine located behind the partition in the storage area. The mezzanine was used for the storage of linoleum and related supplies. Paint, turpentine, thinner and other flammable liquids were stored in cans on the first floor behind the partition.
The building had been remodeled with the original front removed and replaced with large, plate glass windows in aluminum frames on the first floor. The second floor had a brick wall and the rear wall was brick with small windows. The store was heated by two gas-fired floor furnaces and another gas furnace that heated the vacant second floor. (See Sketch.) The front third of the basement had an earth floor and was vacant. The rear of the basement was used to store paint, turpentine, thinner and other flammable liquids in one- and five-gallon cans.
At 9:26 P.M. on March 29, firefighters responded to the street box alarm for a fire in the paint store. They laid hose lines to the front and through an alley to the rear of the store. Preparations were made to set up a ladder pipe at the front of the store but this was not
FIREMEN for May 1970 15