Today is the 20th anniversary of one of the worst high-rise fires in American history. The fire at #1 Meridian Plaza killed three firefighters from Engine 11 and left our department devastated both emotionally and psychologically for many years. It also forced many needed reforms in building codes, construction methods and firefighting tactics. Ironically many of these same issues would be revisited in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster of 9-11.

I came into this job nearly one year to the day following Meridian. It was a time of much soul-searching for many in the job. Some guys never recovered from it and others just moved on. Some left the job. Unfortunately the biggest lessons of the Meridian aren’t those learned by the firefighters. They are the lessons forgotten by our leaders both in and outside the job. Those who say firefighters can do more with less are fools. Those who think public safety is bloated and inefficient as if we were making widgets are ignorant. Those who ignore the lessons of the past… well we know what happens to them.

For a gut wrenching account of the Meridian fire click this link. FF. Jack Bloomer is the only survivor from Engine 11 that fateful night. Assigned as the driver / pump operator he was outside the building with the fire truck when his whole crew was killed. I know Jack personally and have worked with him over the years while stationed in town. He is a great guy, a great fireman and a true gentlemen. The citizens of Philadelphia will never understand the scars he carries with him to this day. I believe the Meridian fire called for twelve alarms. Today on the twenty year anniversary we can most likely no longer field twelve alarms.

The lessons of the past.



  1. Old NFO says:

    Sad story, and those who do not read/remember history are doomed to repeat it! dammit…

  2. ALa says:

    My dad was there. There was word that someone from his station was either hurt or killed but no names released…it was a REALLY bad time for all of us waiting at home. That was the night the reality of his job really hit home.

    • C/A says:

      Most people will luckily never understand those moments. I remember the same thing from the Gulph oil refinery job when I was a kid. Its a paralyzing feeling waiting for word of your loved ones.

  3. Andrew says:

    I remember this fire well – I was only 6 years old at the time, but my grandfather took me by to see it – I will never forget it.

    There was another philly fire anniversary recently too – My grandfather was at Ladder 5 during this incident and according to my father, he was off the night of the fire. The building collapsed and 3 guys from Ladder 5 were killed. Incredible how close to death he was…

    I’m sure your old man was around at the time as well.

    The Normandie Hotel and the Fretz building as well – my grandfather said the scene at the Fretz Building was just an out of control firestorm with hurricane like winds.

  4. Calvin says:

    Looking to bring a firefighter friend to the memorial, but can’t find exactly where it is. Google Maps isn’t helping, even with street view. Can anyone help?

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