Operated by the Portland Veteran Firemen's Association
Since 1891

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Telegraph Cable

Written by Museum Historian Don Whitney

District Chief John F. Egan was on the job in Boston for twenty-eight years when he responded on March 10, 1893 to a six story building, showing fire on Kingston Street. Directing his men in the bowels of the fire, he suddenly found his escape cut off, prompting him to dash up the stairs to the roof.

Beneath him, the six story building was fully involved with fire. He threw his helmet to attract attention of the firemen. The crowd gasped when the saw, through the smoke, the figure of a man trapped on the roof.

His only means of escape was to pull himself hand over hand over the telegraph cables over the street to the roof of the building across the street. His strength, sapped by the fire and exhaustion, could not let him go further than half-way. Dangling six stories above the street, it seemed like the end was near.

The officer of Ladder 3 led his crew to the roof of the opposite building. He had the laddermen tie a rope to the cable. One of them cut the cable with an ax, permitting the men to slowly lower the Chief to the second floor level where his grip finally failed, and he dropped into a waiting life net.

He continued to direct the operations at the fire.

On February 5, 1898, five years later, District Chief Egan's luck ran out. A great blizzard had buried Boston in fifteen inches of snow and 3 alarms were struck on Box 412 for 116 Merriman Street.

District Chief Egan was leading the members of Engine 39 and 7 in the fifth floor of the building, when it shook violenty and collapsed.

Five tough men and their Chief John F. Egan, were killed.

A piece of the actual Telegraph Cable is on Display on the second floor of the Portland Fire Museum (it is accompanied by a picture of Chief Egan)

Telegraph.JPG (140926 bytes) Photo of the Telegraph Cable (click to enlarge)

~Information Source: "Inside the Fire Lines" Boston Sparks Association, Inc. Vol.7 No.1









This story, is related to an exhibit at the Portland Fire Museum...see the photo at end of story.

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